Statutory Rape Charges And Defense In California

Statutory Rape Charges And Defense In California

by | May 28, 2019

Statutory rape charges are often more complex and nuanced than many people think. While the letter of the law may seem black and white at first glance, certain conditions and exceptions exist that can make a big difference. If you have been charged with statutory rape, your defense will depend heavily on the unique circumstances of your case.

Statutory rape in California is also what’s known as a “wobbler crime,” which means it can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances.
 

Statutory Rape Laws

In California, it is illegal for an adult (someone 18 years or older) to have sex with someone under 18 years old. It doesn’t matter if the sex was consensual and/or initiated by the minor. If you are the adult, you will be charged with statutory rape.

The law is based on the underlying assumption that minors are incapable of giving informed consent for sexual activities. This premise is written into the statute, hence the term statutory rape.

It’s also important to understand that a prosecutor does not have to prove that any type of sexual assault or abuse occurred for you to be charged with statutory rape.
 

The “Romeo and Juliet” Exception

Named after Shakespeare’s play about two young lovers, the so-called “Romeo and Juliet” exception exists to prevent serious criminal charges against teenagers who engage in consensual sex with others close to their own age.

In California, the Romeo and Juliet exemption applies to a minor and person who is three or fewer years older or younger. This exception only reduces potential charges from a felony to a misdemeanor. The conduct is still illegal but is rarely prosecuted in all but the most extreme circumstances.

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Penalties For Statutory Rape

Depending on the age of both parties involved and the exact nature of the relationship, statutory rape can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

If charged as a misdemeanor, punishment may include:

  • Probation
  • Fines up to $1,000
  • Up to a year in jail

If you are convicted of felony statutory rape, your punishment will be much more severe and can include:

Typically, the charges and potential punishments get more serious the younger the victim. For example, if the defendant is 21 or older, and the minor is under the age of 16, the penalties are likely to be most severe.
 

Statutory Rape Legal Defense

Generally speaking, there are two primary types of defense against charges of statutory rape:

1) Mistake of age: If you honestly and reasonably believed that the person you had sex with was over 18 at the time you had sex, you can’t be convicted under California statutory rape law.

2) False accusations: Statutory rape is, unfortunately, a type of crime that is often claimed out of anger, jealousy, or for revenge. It may even be claimed by the parent of a minor who is unhappy with the person his or her child is involved with.

If you are charged with statutory rape, no matter how close you and the victim may be, you should never try to explain your relationship to the police or a prosecutor before speaking with a criminal defense attorney.

For a free consultation about your case, please contact our offices today.

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