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BlogCalifornia Statutory Rape Charges – Frequently Asked Questions

According to the CDC, 40% of teens reported being sexually active in 2017. However, sex with a minor remains illegal. Statutory rape can lead to significant penalties, including probation, fines, and even jail time.  In this post, we hope to address many of the common questions that are raised with regard to statutory rape.  For more information or to discuss the specifics of your case with a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer, call the Law Offices of David S. Chesley today at 800-755-5174 or contact us online.

What exactly is statutory rape?

California Penal Code 261.5 defines statutory rape as having sex with someone under the age of 18.  If the perpetrator is not more than three years older or younger than the minor, it is a misdemeanor offense. If the perpetrator is more than 3 years older than the minor, the offense is a “wobbler,” meaning it can either be a felony or a misdemeanor.

Can I be charged with statutory rape if the sex was consensual?

Yes. you can be charged with statutory rape. Statutory rape includes both consensual and non-consensual sex.

What if both parties are under the age of 18?

Both parties can be charged with statutory rape. For example, let’s say Tim and Amy are both 17.  They are in a dating relationship and engage in consensual sexual intercourse. Both Tim and Amy can be charged with statutory rape, regardless of who initiated the encounter.

But How or Why Would This Even Happen?

Maybe Amy’s parents were unhappy about the relationship.  Amy refused to break up with Tim, and so Amy’s parents contacted the police out of anger and frustration. Another common scenario is that the relationship between Amy and Tim falls apart, Tim starts seeing someone else, and Amy contacts the police out of anger or jealousy.

What is considered sexual intercourse for purposes of statutory rape?

Depending on the exact crime charged, sexual intercourse can include oral sex, penetration, or any sexual contact whatsoever.

Is statutory rape a felony or a misdemeanor?

Statutory rape in California is what is referred to as a “wobbler” offense. This means that it can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances.

The age of the parties involved plays a critical role in whether it is charged as a felony or a misdemeanor and the potential penalties involved. For example, if the victim is less than three years younger than the perpetrator, the perpetrator will be charged with a misdemeanor. If the perpetrator is more than three years older than the victim, the perpetrator may be charged with either a felony or a misdemeanor.

What are the potential penalties?

The potential penalties will vary according to whether it is charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. Below is a chart that gives an outline of the possible penalties.

Crime Misdemeanor Felony
Victim is less than three years younger than perpetrator-Probation
-Up to one year in jail
-Possible fines
N/A;
Victim is more than three years younger than the perpetrator-Probation
-Up to one year in jail
-Possible fines
-Prison in county jail for 16 months, two or three years
-Possible fines from $2,000 up to $10,000
Perpetrator is over 21 and the victim is under 16-Probation
-Up to one year in jail
-Possible fines
-Prison for two, three, or four years
-Possible fines of up to $25,000

Fines will be imposed by the court if the perpetrator is over the age of 18 and is convicted of statutory rape.

In addition to the criminal penalties and fines, a conviction for statutory rape could have other extremely negative consequences. If you are over the age of 18, it will be on your permanent criminal record and available to the public. As a result, it could severely affect your reputation and even limit your ability to gain employment. If you are under the age of 18, it could affect your ability to go to the college of your choice or secure scholarships.

What About a Charge of Lewd or Lascivious Acts with a Child?

Lewd or Lascivious Acts with a Child is a separate but related offense under California Penal Code Section 288. People are charged with this crime when it is alleged that they have had sexual contact with someone who is under the age of 14 (or 15 in some cases) and carries harsher penalties that statutory rape.  As a result, pleading guilty to a lesser charge of statutory rape is often offered as part of a plea bargain.

If Convicted, Will I Have to Register as a Sex Offender?

Surprisingly, you do not have to register as a sex offender if convicted of statutory rape. Be aware, however, that you may have to register as a sex offender if you are charged with and convicted of related crimes, such as rape or offenses involving a child. For example, a conviction under PC 288 (Lewd Acts with a Child) will require you to register as a sex offender.

What are are the Defenses to Statutory Rape?

One possible defense is that you honestly and reasonably believed that the victim was over the age of 18. For example, let’s say you met a girl at an over-21 dance club where you have to present identification in order to enter. You saw her order a drink, and she later tells you that she attends the local university. Unfortunately, it turns out that she’s only 17 and was using a fake ID. In that case, you may have a good chance of being acquitted if charged with statutory rape.

Another possible defense is that intercourse or other sexual contact never occurred. This defense is common in cases where the perpetrator has been falsely accused of statutory rape.  Jealousy, revenge, or other unhappiness over the relationship between the victim and the accused often result in false accusations where there was no sexual contact.

It is extremely important to remember that consent is not a defense to a statutory rape claim.  For this reason, you should say as little as possible to the police and the prosecution about the accusation.

Should I Hire a Lawyer if I’ve Been Charged with Statutory Rape?

We strongly recommend that you hire a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney if you’ve been accused of statutory rape. Being charged with any crime is a very serious matter, and the criminal justice system is difficult for non-lawyers to navigate.  In addition, a conviction for statutory rape could have severe and long-lasting consequences that negatively affect your future.

It’s also very important to understand that the prosecution is not on your side, even if it seems that way. They might promise a lighter sentence if you cooperate, but ultimately, they want to obtain a conviction as quickly and as easily as possible. This may involve getting you to admit to things that you don’t need to admit or confessing to crimes they can’t prove. A skilled criminal defense attorney can speak on your behalf and avoid the potential pitfalls that will undermine your case.

Contact a Los Angeles Statutory Rape Defense Attorney Today

If you or someone you know has been charged with statutory rape, it is critical that you talk to a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Even when charged as a misdemeanor, statutory rape is a very serious charge with severe consequences. Don’t leave your future in the hands of the prosecution - you need someone on your side who will fight for your rights and a fair outcome.

The attorneys at The Law Offices of David S. Chesley have over 50 years of courtroom experience and provides high-quality, aggressive representation for people accused of statutory rape. Call us at 800-755-5174 or email us today to schedule a free consultation.