Rape occurs if one person has non-consensual sexual intercourse with another person. Sometimes, individuals use force, threats, or blackmail to force someone into non-consensual sexual intercourse. Other types of rape occur if someone is legally unable to give consent to a sex act.
Statutory rape is an example of a rape that occurs because one party cannot consent to sexual intercourse. This charge is prosecuted under California Penal Code Section 261.5: Statutory Rape. Contact the Simmrin Law Group to discuss the specifics of a statutory rape charge and learn about all your legal options.
California’s Definition of Statutory Rape
Under CPC Section 261.5, statutory rape generally involves having sex with someone under the age of 18. 18 is the legal age of consent in California. Individuals can be charged with statutory rape even if they do not force the underage individual into sex.
In fact, a person can be charged with statutory rape, even if the underage party was the one who initiated the relationship and requested the sex act. It is also possible for statutory rape to be charged when all parties engaged in the sex act are underage.
Statutory Rape Is a “Wobbler”
Statutory rape is what is known as a wobbler, which means it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. However, in certain cases, a violation of PC 261.5 is always a misdemeanor. This is true in cases where an individual has sex with an underage person who is within three years of their age.
The Los Angeles court system sometimes refers to statutory rape as unlawful sex with a minor. These charges represent the same criminal act.
Note that if an individual uses force to carry out a rape, or if direct sexual intercourse does not occur, the courts may focus on different sex crime charges, including:
- California Penal Code Section 261: Rape
- California Penal Code Section 243.4: Sexual Battery
- California Penal Code Section 647(a): Lewd Conduct
- California Penal Code Section 647.6: Annoying or Molesting a Child
Penalties for Statutory Rape in California
The penalties for statutory rape vary depending on whether this act is charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.
Misdemeanor Statutory Rape Penalties
Misdemeanor charges are far less severe than felony charges. However, this is not to say that these changes do not come with harsh consequences. Individuals convicted of misdemeanor statutory rape can face:
- Fines of up to $1,000
- Up to one year in jail
- Summary probation
Felony Statutory Rape Penalties
When the prosecution decides to pursue felony statutory rape charges, the stakes are far greater. A conviction for felony statutory rape can result in:
- Fines of up to $10,000
- Up to four years in prison
- Formal probation
In addition to court fines, an individual convicted under PC 261.5 could be forced to pay thousands of dollars in restitution to their victim.
Note that the above penalties are only applicable to adults. Individuals under 18 accused of statutory rape will be charged in juvenile court, where they may face different consequences.
Defenses Against Statutory Rape Charges
Individuals accused of statutory rape may be able to utilize a number of legal defenses, including:
- A reasonable belief that the victim was over 18
- False accusation
- Lack of evidence
A Reasonable Belief That the Victim Was Over 18
In order to be convicted of statutory rape, an individual must be aware that they are having sexual intercourse with someone under 18. If someone reasonably believes they are engaging in sex with someone over 18, they should not be convicted under PC 261.5.
For this defense to work, the defendant must show that they had a legitimate reason to believe that the victim was at least 18 years of age. For instance, if the defendant met the minor in a bar that is 21 and over, they have a solid reason for believing them to be over 18 years old.
Statements by the minor claiming to be 18 or older may also be submitted as evidence, especially if there are multiple witnesses who can attest to these claims.
Many allegations regarding sex crimes are legitimate. However, some accusations are made falsely, including statutory rape accusations. If an individual was accused of a rape that did not occur, they should not be convicted.
Lack of Evidence
Another common defense in these cases is lack of evidence. When it comes to statutory rape, there is often no physical evidence of a crime having been committed. The burden of proof lies with the prosecution. They must be able to demonstrate the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
If the evidence that has been gathered is clearly not substantial enough to do so, an experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to get the case thrown out before it ever goes to trial.
A criminal defense lawyer can assess your case if you or a family member are facing statutory rape charges.
Examples of Act of Statutory Rape in California
The following examples can be used to understand statutory rape charges in California under CPCP Section 261.5.
A man meets a woman at a club that is supposed to be 21-and-over only. She is drinking a beer. They connect, and things progress romantically through the night. They eventually leave together, returning to his apartment, where they have sexual intercourse.
Afterward, she reveals that she is only 16. He may not be convicted of statutory rape since he had reason to believe she was over 18.
A man at college meets the little sister of one of his friends. She is almost 18, and he is aware of her age. They hit it off and end up having sexual intercourse, despite the fact that he is 20. He could be charged with misdemeanor statutory rape since he is only three years older than her. If he were 21, he could be looking at a potential felony charge.
Crossing State Lines to Have Sex
Even without having sexual intercourse with a minor, an individual can be convicted of statutory rape. When a person crosses state lines with a minor intending to have sexual intercourse, they are not only guilty of statutory rape, but they have also violated multiple other federal laws.
The age of consent in Nevada is 16 years old, but traveling there from California in an attempt to have legal intercourse with someone under 18 is an illegal act all on its own.
Get Professional Help Dealing With Statutory Rape Accusations
Some individuals try to handle statutory rape accusations on their own. This often leads to a conviction. You can contact the Simmrin Law Group now if you are charged under California Penal Code Section 261.5: Statutory Rape. Call us or complete our online contact form to contact our team of criminal defense lawyers now.
You can schedule a free initial case evaluation with a member of our legal team. We will review your case and advise you of all your options for fighting the charges against you.