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What is The Age of Consent in California?

Were you or someone dear to you arrested for violating California’s age of consent laws? These laws can get confusing at times. You might only discover them once you or your loved one are charged. This guide provides an overview of what you need to know.

The legal age of consent refers to the age when a person may legally consent to have sexual activity. California’s age of consent is 18. As such, it is illegal for any adult person to have sexual intercourse with a person 17 years old and younger.

Were you charged with violating the age of consent in California? Don’t hesitate. Hire a criminal defense attorney knowledgeable in California consent laws as soon as possible. The Law Offices of Christopher Chaney can help.

California Penal Code specifies the following Age of Consent Laws:

California Penal Code 261.5

According to California Penal Code 261.5, unlawful sexual intercourse is “an act of sexual intercourse accomplished with a person who is not the spouse of the perpetrator, if the person is a minor.” This provision is also called the Statutory Rape Law.

According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), “statutory rape is the crime of sex with a minor when the sex is agreed to by both parties, not forced.”

Even if a minor agrees to have consensual sex, an adult could still be charged with statutory rape. That’s because, in CA, individuals below 18 are not considered legally competent to consent to sexual activity. Therefore, they are not held responsible for making intelligent and informed decisions.

Being convicted of it has serious criminal consequences. It could affect not only you as well as your loved ones. Hiring competent legal help can provide guidance and the peace of mind you need during a tough time.

California Penal Code 287

A person who has consensual oral sex with a minor below 18 years of age violates California Penal Code 287. The crime could be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the victim’s and the defendant’s ages. A felony under this provision of the Code can send the defendant to prison for up to 12 years. In addition, a violation of this will require sex offender registration.

California Penal Code 288

Someone who willfully and lewdly commits an act of lust towards a child below 14 years of age violates California Penal Code 288. This provision provides a penalty of up to 8 years in California state prison. The penalty increases if the crime was committed using force, violence, or intimidation.

Statutory Rape Charges Under California Law

Generally, someone who has unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor child not more than three years younger than them is guilty of a misdemeanor offense. For example, if one person is 19 and the other party is 17, it would be a misdemeanor.

Under California law, however, statutory rape is a wobbler offense. That means it can be punished as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the prosecutor. For example, it could be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony if:

  • A person has unlawful sex with a minor child more than three years younger than them.
  • A person is 21 years or older, and the person they had sexual intercourse with is a minor under 16 years old.

Penalties for Statutory Rape

The sentence for a misdemeanor is up to one year in the county jail. For a felony, it is up to four years in prison. The fines for each depend on the age difference and are capped as follows:

  • $2,000 if the minor is less than two years younger
  • $5,000 if the minor is at least two years younger
  • $10,000 if the minor is at least three years younger
  • $25,000 if the minor is below 16 and the adult is over 21

If the minor is legally married to an adult, their consensual intercourse is not a criminal sexual act. It is clear from the language of the law that statutory rape does not exist between spouses of any age.

The age difference between the parties rarely matters in such cases. That’s because, in California, there is no minimum age for getting married. A minor only requires parental consent and an order from the court to lawfully marry.

Does the Romeo and Juliet Law Apply in California?

Some states have what is known as a Romeo and Juliet Law. This law protects an individual from being prosecuted for having sexual relations with a minor or someone close in age.

California, however, has no Romeo and Juliet Law. Having consensual sexual intercourse with a minor is criminal, even if you are a minor yourself. Therefore, underage sex partners can have criminal liability for their sexual activity.

Can a Minor Date an Adult in California?

Yes, an adult can date a minor without issue, technically. However, this could be risky.

Remember that the moment they engage in sexual activity, the adult can be held criminally liable because California laws prohibit an adult from having sex with any person under the age of consent.

Common Defenses to Statutory Rape Charges

Different U.S. states have their own age-of-consent laws, ranging from 16 to 18 years old. However, ignorance of the laws does not mean you can’t be charged with a criminal offense.

Facing statutory rape charges can be challenging and embarrassing. Still, there are defenses that you and your lawyer can raise to avoid conviction or lower the penalty.

  1. Mistaken identity: You can prove you were never present at the scene if you have a solid alibi. The arresting officers made a mistake in arresting you.
  2. Absence of a sexual relationship: You can argue that you do not have sexual activities. There’s no sexual penetration and no anal or oral sex, even if you’re dating.
  3. Legal age of consent: The victim and the defendant are both within the age of consent. Hence, there was no consent law violation.
  4. Mistake, error, or misrepresentation: The victim misrepresented that they are of age.

Contact the Law Offices of Christopher Chaney

Being convicted of statutory rape can have enormous legal consequences. Hiring a criminal defense lawyer can improve your chances of a positive outcome. You could benefit from the counsel of a defense attorney in California that handles statutory rape offenses.

At the Law Offices of Christopher Chaney, we have experience defending clients facing false accusations. We are well-versed in California law and other relevant laws on the age of consent. We are here to listen. Let us be your advocate. Call us today to schedule an appointment!

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Regardless of your circumstance, you are not alone in your fight. We are ready to stand by your side and fight for your rights, freedom, and reputation. Contact us today to schedule a free remote or in-person consultation, and let us assist you in finding a solution to your problem.