In California, it is illegal to have sex with someone under the age of 18 unless you are married to them (yes, the marriage part is actually written into the law).
Statutory rape can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances. If your ages are within three years of each other, it will always be a misdemeanor. If the age gap is larger than three years, it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. You face the harshest penalties—up to four years in state prison—if you are over 21 and the other person is younger than 16. On top of the criminal punishment, you could also face civil penalties ranging from $2,000 to $25,000 depending on the age difference.
A prosecutor does not need to prove that you forced yourself on the minor, or even that you initiated it. The encounter could have been completely consensual, or the minor could have even initiated it, and that would still count as statutory rape. And because the law rarely makes sense, an individual can be charged with (and convicted of) statutory rape even if they were under 18 themselves. In that case, the person charged would likely go through the process in juvenile court instead of criminal court, but both have long-lasting consequences for those accused and convicted.
While consent is not a defense to statutory rape, you do have a defense if you were wrongly accused or if you genuinely and reasonably believed the other person was over 18 at the time. However, this can be tough to prove, and you may risk making accidental admissions to elements of the offense if you try to handle it on your own. That is why your best bet is to go over all possible defenses with the assistance of a skilled and experienced criminal defense firm to develop a plan of action for how best to fight your case and protect your future, freedom, and reputation.
For more information on statutory rape, you can check out managing partner David Shapiro’s video here, or give us a call at (619) 295-3555 to set up a consultation today.
The contents of this article and blog are for meant for informational and marketing purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Viewing and/or use of the blog does not form an attorney-client relationship. No statements in this post are a guarantee, warranty, or prediction of a particular result in your case.