California takes seriously the right of minors to be protected from engaging in sexual acts that could expose them to consequences which they are not ready to handle. If you engage in sexual activities with a minor, even if you are a minor engaging in sexual acts with another minor, you would be violating the California statutory rape law. You have to contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to defend and protect your rights. If you are in Los Angeles, CA, we invite you to get in touch with The Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer if you are facing statutory rape charges.

What Is Statutory Rape?

Statutory rape is any form of sexual relations with a person who is below the age of consent. People who are below the age of consent, 18 years, are considered legally unable to give consent to sex. For a statutory rape conviction to be made, there must be sexual intercourse AND with a child below the age of consent.

Statutory rape laws are designed to protect minors from sexual exploitation by adults or by sex predators. These laws take into account the fact that minors are not mature nor prepared to handle the effects of sex such as unplanned pregnancies. Statutory laws extend to cover minor partners who decide to have sex.

Historically, statutory laws were meant to protect the marriageability of young women and to protect them from abandonment after getting pregnant. Therefore, in most cases, an older woman having sex with an underage man was often ignored.

However, in today’s society, while females are still exposed to the risks of being sexually exploited by older males, younger and underage boys could be victims of statutory rape. In short, you may find yourself accused of statutory rape regardless of your sex.

The rise of same-sex relationships and their recognition in California has also led to the question of statutory rape in these cases. The same laws for statutory rape also apply to same-sex relationships.

Under California PC code 261.5 (b)-(d), statutory laws extend to:

  • Any person who has unlawful sexual relations with a minor and the person is not more than three years younger or older. Anyone found in violation of this law is guilty of a misdemeanor
  • Anyone who engages in unlawful sexual relations with a minor and is more than three years older than the minor is guilty of a felony or a misdemeanor
  • Anyone who is 21 or older and has unlawful sex with a minor 16 years or younger can be charged with either a felony or a misdemeanor

Age of Consent

The age of consent is the age at which one can legally accept to engage in sexual relations. California has set the age of consent at 18. Age of consent means that engaging in sexual relations with a person below this age would be statutory rape.

Violating the age of consent can attract serious charges depending on the age of the minor. The younger the child is, the more severe the penalties are likely to be. By violating the age of consent laws, you risk statutory charges of aggravated sexual assault of a child, oral copulation, unlawful intercourse with a minor, sexual acts with a child 10 years or younger, and penetration by a foreign object.

If you are in authority, you may also face statutory rape charges, and you risk losing your professional license in addition to facing criminal penalties. People in authority include teachers, baby sitters, employees, members of the clergy and even parents. They may use their power over the child to draw consent from them and engage in unlawful sexual relations.

The harsh penalties for statutory rape are as a result of the consequences it poses to the victims. The victim may suffer from STDs, pregnancy, infertility, physical damage, and long-term psychological damage. The effects are especially common in minors who may agree to the sexual relations under misrepresentation by the perpetrator and fraud.

The effects of statutory rape are often more negative among female victims who may develop a sense of low self-worth, hatred for all men and an aversion to sexual relationships. Sexual violations often affect the deepest parts of their victims making them feel as if they have no control over themselves and their bodies. People dealing with the psychological effects of statutory rape may need therapy to get cured.

Whether both parties are minors or one party is an adult, statutory rape conviction carries stiff penalties and other consequences including:

  • An underage male may impregnate a female and be forced to provide child support even when they are not financially stable
  • The minors may misinterpret the meaning of the sexual acts and its consequences resulting in self-esteem and other emotional issues
  • Minors who are not prepared for sex may develop mood disorders and depression
  • Minors have more trouble accessing birth control and STD protection, meaning they are exposed to the risks of contracting STDs and becoming pregnant

Penalties for Statutory Rape

Statutory rape is a sensitive issue as it concerns the welfare of children and their safety. In an attempt to protect them from molestation and sexual abuse, the state has set penalties for various charges that constitute statutory rape and related statutory charges.

California law charges statutory rape as a wobbler offense. The circumstances of the crime determine whether it is charged as a felony or a misdemeanor.

Where the adult having sex with a minor is more than three years older than the minor, the offense may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. Your criminal record and the specific facts of your case will decide the charge and the penalty.

When charged as a misdemeanor, you may receive the following penalties

  • Summary probation
  • A sentence of not more than one year in county jail
  • A fine not exceeding $1,000

When charged as a felony, the penalties include:

  • Formal or informal probation with up to one year in county jail
  • 16 months, 2 years or 3 years’ sentence, where the adult was above 21 and the victim below 16, the sentence last for 2, 3, or 4 years.
  • A fine not exceeding $10,000

Civil penalties are charged in addition to criminal charges for statutory rape. Civil penalties are charged on adult defendants. The law decides upon the maximum amount of civil penalties that may be paid depending on the age of the victim and the perpetrator. They include

  • A maximum of $2,000 where the victim is less than two years older than the minor
  • A maximum of $5,000 where the minor is at least two years younger than the defendant
  • A maximum of $10,000 where the minor was at least three years younger than the defendant
  • A maximum of $25,000 where the minor was 16 or younger, and the defendant was 21 or older.

What to Do When you are Facing Statutory Rape Charges

The statute of limitations for statutory rape in California depends on the age difference between the victim and the perpetrator. Where the age difference is less than three years, the statute of limitations is one year. Where the age difference is more than three years, the statute of limitations is either 1 or 3 years for misdemeanor and felonies respectively.

Before this time ends, the victim or their parents may file charges against you for statutory rape. It would be best if you acted quickly to protect your reputation, reduce penalties and in some cases, prove your innocence and avoid conviction. In some cases, a lawsuit may be filed against you following the reports of mandated reporters such as:

  • Employees and supervisors whose responsibilities involve interaction with children
  • Public assistance workers
  • Child support caseworkers
  • Emergency medical technicians
  • Child therapists
  • Health professionals who treat children for sexually transmitted infections
  • Members of the clergy
  • Public health officials
  • Law enforcement officers

Regardless of who initiates the charges, it would help if you were fully prepared to face these charges. Here are some essential things to take note of when charged for statutory rape.

The first step you need to take is hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney. Criminal defense attorneys will help you in investigating the crime to establish whether the victim is making a false accusation, their motive for filing the charges and whether their evidence was obtained legally or not. A criminal lawyer is more likely to pinpoint these issues during the early stages of the case.

It would help if you also refrained from giving any information to the police. When faced with police interrogation, you should choose to remain silent or only answer questions in the presence of your criminal lawyer. Failing to give any information to the police may save you from self-incriminating remarks and others that may be misinterpreted to make you look guilty. On the same note, you should refrain from talking to the press. The press may stretch your statements out of context, putting them in a way that indicates harm to the said victim. Statements published by the media may influence the judges to rule in favor of the reported victim.

Where the said victim lives in the same residence as you, you may need to make separate living arrangements to avoid creating problems such as false accusations of attempting to violate their rights. Where the court has issued a no-contact order, it is best to move residence as soon as possible.

You should cooperate with your criminal lawyer in looking for evidence to support your case. You can provide receipts, texts, pictures, videos, and other materials that show you were not at the scene of the crime. You can provide an alibi, provide witness statements and use a character witness who will talk of your good conduct. You can also review the medical records of the accused, where they are indicating physical injury occurred. You and your attorney can also review police reports to help you pinpoint inconsistencies in the statements of the alleged victim.

Where the accusation is false, your lawyer is in a better place to determine the motive of the said victim in framing you for statutory rape. For example, a failed relationship (even where sex did not occur) can lead to claims of statutory rape. Your lawyer understands that false accusations might be a part of your statutory rape charges and will help you prove your innocence. Where you did have sex with the said victim, the lawyer will help you in collecting evidence that proves you reasonably believed that the minor was above 18 years.

Note that the alleged victim may initiate a civil lawsuit against you even after filing criminal charges. A civil lawsuit is often resolved in private rather than in the courtroom. The civil lawsuit is meant to seek monetary compensation for emotional harm, psychological and physical pain, medical bills, and counseling. In this case, your attorney will represent you during this process to help reduce the amount you pay for damages or even prove your innocence.

Possible Legal Defenses for Statutory Rape Charges

Statutory rape is a serious crime that could stain your reputation and affect your future employability. Therefore, when you are charged with statutory rape, you need to hire a criminal lawyer who deals with sex crimes to help you in preparing your defense. Before preparing the defense, you need to cooperate with your lawyer fully by giving a correct account of what went on. Being transparent helps the lawyer determine facts of your case and a possible flaw in the prosecution that could lead to a better defense strategy.

Once the lawyer has established the facts of the case, they can now start preparing the defense. The type of defense chosen depends on the circumstances of your case.

The most common defenses include:

  1. You had a reasonable belief that the victim was 18 years and above

A person charged with statutory rape may have an honest and reasonable belief that the victim had attained the age of consent at the time of the sexual act. Your lawyer can present various evidence to prove your claim:

  • Statements by the victim indicating that he or she was 18 years or older
  • The attire and general appearance of the victim
  • The place you met the victim. For instance, if you met the person in a bar that only allows people aged 18 and above.
  1. False accusations

You may be falsely accused of statutory rape. False accusations in statutory rape cases can be made from anger, revenge or jealousy. Parents of a minor may also accuse the defendant of statutory rape on the basis that they do not like the association between the defendant and their child. False accusations can also happen where the minor was intoxicated and cannot remember the facts clearly. Here, the focus of your defense is to prove that you are not answerable to criminal charges since you were accused falsely.

  1. There was no intercourse

For you to be convicted of statutory rape, an act of penetration must have occurred even to the slightest extent. You could use the "we did not have sex" defense if you did not have penetrative sex with the minor.

  1. Marriage

Where the minor in question is your wife, you cannot be charged for statutory rape since you are allowed to have sexual relations with her.

  1. You are close in age to the victim

When you and the said victim are close in age, your lawyer can use this defense to lower your penalties possibly. While California does not recognize sexual relations between minors who are close in age, it can help your case to be prosecuted as a misdemeanor instead of a felony.

Pregnancy And Statutory Rape

One of the consequences of statutory rape is pregnancy. Where the girl got pregnant, she may successfully file for child support. In most cases, you may be forced by the court to make child support payments to support the child.

When you are charged with statutory rape and are required to pay for damages such as medical expenses and child upkeep, your criminal lawyer can help you in fighting child support charges, especially where you did not have sex with the alleged victim. You can use a paternity test to prove that the child is not yours.

Finally, you may be the victim of statutory rape which results in the pregnancy of the perpetrator. In most cases, as a male, you will be forced to pay child support particularly if you did not file for statutory rape charges before the expiration of the statute of limitations.

Find A Criminal Lawyer Near Me

When you are charged with statutory rape, the first step you should take is contacting an experienced lawyer. At Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer, we have the skills and expertise in handling matters related to statutory rape. Therefore, we will provide you with relevant legal advice. We will also help in preparing a strong defense that could save you from conviction. Call us now at 310-502-1314 to discuss your case with us.