There is no such thing as consensual sex under the age of 18 in California. The law does not identify minors as capable of granting another individual consent to engage in sexual activities. Depending on the ages of the people involved, the offense could even be charged as a felonious sex crime.
Defining Statutory Rape
Statutory rape in California can be charged against a person if they have sex with someone younger than 18 – even when that person is a willing participant. The law does not change its view on consent when both people are minors. When two minors engage in sexual activity, both are technically breaking the law.
Romeo & Juliet Laws
Some states have what are referred to as Romeo and Juliet laws. Consensual sexual partners who are close in age will not be charged with statutory rape. California does not have this exemption in the law, but proximity in age can reduce the punishment.
Age Impacts Statutory Rape Consequences
The ages of the participants are determining factors in potential punishment for the accused. When two minors are close in age – for example, two 17-year-olds – prosecutors will often decline to charge either person. The minor can be required to discuss the dangers of sex before adulthood at their local probation department.
Charges are likely against an adult who has sex with a minor. This is true even if an 18-year-old high school senior has sex with a 17-year-old high school senior.
- An adult who engages in unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor less than two years younger than the adult is liable for a civil penalty not to exceed $2,000.
- An adult who engages in unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor at least two years younger than the adult is liable for a civil penalty not to exceed $5,000.
- An adult who engages in unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor at least three years younger than the adult is liable for a civil penalty not to exceed $10,000.
- An adult 21 or older who engages in unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor younger than 16 is liable for a civil penalty not to exceed $25,000.
Unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor who is no more than three years younger is a misdemeanor. In addition to the civil penalties, the perpetrator can be sentenced to as much as 364 days in county jail. If the age difference is more than three years, the older person can be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the facts of the case. A felony charge can mean serving 2 to 4 years behind bars.
Statutory Rape & Sex Offender Registry
California does not automatically require someone convicted of statutory rape to register as a sex offender. The judge in the case retains the authority to require registration.
Statutory Rape Exceptions in California
If the two people are legally married, statutory rape charges will not be filed no matter the age of either person. Minors can get married with the permission of a parent and the courts in California.
Defenses Against Statutory Rape Charges
Legal statutory rape exceptions are not the only defense options. Sometimes the younger person lies to the older individual about their age. Mistaken age can be a defense in some California cases. The accused can also contend that they never had sexual intercourse.
If you or your child is accused of statutory rape, fighting sex crime charges is possible. Talk with our experienced attorneys at Corrigan Welbourn Stokke, APLC. Each case we take benefits from the collective experience and knowledge of the entire team.
We are available to take your call any time of day or night. Call (949) 251-0330 or reach out to us online.