Age of consent can be a tricky thing. While these laws are designed to protect the young from being victimized, in some cases they can feel rather arbitrary. However, it is crucial not to take these laws lightly. Violating one of California’s age of consent laws can result in statutory rape charges.
There are several different California laws that govern behavior considered unlawful when it comes to sexual interaction with a minor. California laws regarding the age of consent are some of the strictest in the country.
California Is Tough on Statutory Rape
California is one of only 11 states where the age of consent to engage in sexual activity is 18 years old. Throughout most of the country, that age is 16, with half a dozen states having a consenting age of 17.
On top of this, California is a state that does not have a true Romeo and Juliet Law. This law is designed to keep young lovers of similar age from facing criminal charges for engaging in consensual sexual behavior. For instance, in many states, a 15-year-old could legally have sex with a 17-year-old under this law.
California has a sentencing version of the Romeo and Juliet Law, however. The law makes it so that sexual relationships between young couples will only result in a misdemeanor offense for statutory rape rather than a felony charge.
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California’s Laws Regarding Statutory Rape
California has dozens of laws specifically designed to protect children. Included among these are several statutes which focus on protecting children from various sexual abuses. Some of the primary laws in this realm are:
- California Penal Code (PC) §261.5: Statutory Rape
- PC §288: Lewd Acts with a Minor Under Age 14
- PC §288(a): Oral Copulation with a Minor
PC §261.5 is concerned with unlawful sexual intercourse or penetration between a minor and a defendant of any age.
Lewd Acts with a Minor Under Age 14
PC §288 defines lewd and lascivious acts as sexual contact, including the touching of another person’s genitals, buttocks, or breast. This law makes it illegal for any touching of this type to occur between a minor, age 13 or younger, and a defendant of any age.
The law further outlaws this type of contact between a minor aged 14 or 15 and a defendant who is older by at least ten years.
Oral Copulation with a Minor
PC §288(a) is similar to PC §261.5 but relates specifically to the act of oral sex between a minor and a defendant of any age. All these laws are concerned with protecting children from sexual predators. However, they can result in young partners involved in loving, long-term relationships being unjustly penalized.
In cases where two 17-year-olds engage in sex, both can be charged with statutory rape. With California’s broad definition of statutory rape, true abusers and innocent kids are often lumped together. While these laws are critical for protecting minors, some argue that they go too far.
There are other laws that are more clear-cut and only punish true sexual predators. These include laws that protect children from other sexual acts like the creation and distribution of child pornography.
There Are Exceptions for Marriage in California
There are exceptions to statutory rape charges in California if the two parties are married. The state requires that a minor get parental consent in order to marry under the age of 18. However, there is no minimum age requirement when parental consent is given. Unfortunately, many people under 18 are forced into marriage by their parents or guardians.
With parental consent, a 14-year-old could marry a 40-year-old, and the two would then legally be allowed to have sex without the risk of statutory rape charges. There are many parties calling for reform to this law to close marriage loopholes as they view forced marriage as a human rights violation and a form of child abuse.
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Potential Penalties for a Conviction on an Age of Consent Law
The penalties for a conviction of any age of consent law vary depending on the type of offense, the age of the victim, and the age of the defendant. California has a Romeo and Juliet Law specific to filing charges, making any statutory rape charge a misdemeanor when the parties are both young and close in age. In typical misdemeanor cases, the defendant could be up against:
- Up to $1,000 in fines
- Up to one year in jail
- Summary probation
Penalties for a felony conviction are much harsher and vary greatly. These punishments can include:
- Up to $10,000 in fines
- From 16 months to eight years in prison
- Felony probation
Misdemeanor offenses may result in registration as a sex offender, while it is part of mandatory sentencing for anyone convicted of a felony. For repeat convictions of sexual offenses involving a minor, there is also a mandatory sentence of chemical castration for the defendant. Alternatively, the person convicted could choose to be surgically castrated. California was the first state to include chemical castration as a legal penalty for sex offenders.
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We Provide Legal Representation for Those Accused of Sex Crimes in California
Sex offenders are typically viewed as the most vial of criminals, especially when the victims are minors. To be lumped into this group after participating in a loving, consensual relationship with someone close to your age is hardly justice. If you have been accused of statutory rape, contact the Simmrin Law Group today.
Call or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free, no-obligation case evaluation today. A member of our legal team will review your case, answer all your questions, and advise you of your options moving forward.