In Los Angeles, sexual intercourse with anyone under the age of 18 is illegal. Unfortunately, life isn’t always so cut-and-dry. Both adults and minors can find themselves in sexual situations with someone under 18, and can end up facing severe criminal consequences. Don’t let this happen to you. If you have been charged with unlawful sexual activity with a minor, you need to talk to a Los Angeles sex crimes defense lawyer.
The Simmrin Law Group can help you. We understand the complicated laws around these cases, and the defenses that can win them. We will listen to you, take your side, and work tirelessly on your behalf—because we believe you are innocent until proven guilty. Let us give you a FREE consultation. Fill out the form to the right or call us at 310-997-4688 and get your free consultation today.
What counts as unlawful sexual activity with a minor in Los Angeles?
This offense, officially known as California Penal Code 261.5, is one of the most problematic laws on the books. Although it was passed with the intention of protecting children, it ends up criminalizing a lot of different consensual relationships—and putting innocent adults behind bars.
Under PC 261.5, you can be found guilty…
- Even if the minor consented
- Even if the minor was the one who initiated contact
- Even if you are in a loving, committed relationship with the minor
The bottom line is: if authorities find out that you had sex with someone under the age of 18, you can face criminal charges and be convicted.
(The only exception is if you are legally married to the minor in question.)
What if the minor was very young?
In most cases, “unlawful sexual activity with a minor” is only used when the minor is an older teenager.
Although it’s also illegal to have sexual contact with a young child, this is a separate offense that is considered much more serious.
Here is the usual cutoff:
- If the minor is 14 or under (or 15 in some cases), you will likely be charged with committing a sexual act upon a childor another similar charge. This a different offense with heavier consequences and mandatory sex offender registration.
- If the minor older than 14 (or 15 in some cases), but still not 18, that is when “unlawful sexual activity with a minor” will be charged. Although serious, it does not require sex offender registration.
What if we had some kind of contact but it wasn’t “sex”?
Technically, you are only guilty of breaking this law if you had traditional, penetrative sexual intercourse. The official definition is:
- Penetration of the vagina or genitalia by the penis
That means that oral sex, sexual petting and touching, or other acts do not count. However, there are other charges you can face if you engaged in these acts with someone under 18.
What if I thought they were over 18?
This makes a big difference.
Under the law, if you “honestly and reasonably believed” the minor was actually 18 or older, you are not guilty of unlawful sexual activity with a minor.
However, we will need to put together evidence to show that your belief was reasonable. This could includes statements that show they lied to you about their age, meeting them at an 18+ or 21+ event, or any other evidence that backs up your claim.
Is unlawful sexual activity with a minor considered a felony?
It can be, but it’s not usually. The determining factor is the age difference between the parties.
- If you are 3 years older or less, it’s a misdemeanor
- If you are more than 3 years older, it could be either a misdemeanor or a felony
- If you are more than 3 years older, and the minor was under 16, it could still be either one but the penalties for a felony are much higher
Do I have to register as a sex offender?
No. Unlike most other sex crimes involving a minor, you are not required to register as a sex offender for this offense. However, the conviction can still affect your career, college admissions, and other situations where you have to disclose it.
What penalties do I face?
It depends on whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, which is based on the age gap between you and the minor.
- Up to 1 year in jail
- A fine of up to $1,000.
- Either 1 year in county jail,
- Up to 3 years in state prison, or
- Up to 4 years in state prison if the victim was under 16 and you are over 21, and
- Up to $10,000 in fines
Depending on what happened, you can also be required to pay restitution, which is compensation money paid to the victim or their family. This can cost an additional $25,000 in some cases.
What if I was also under 18 when the sexual intercourse occurred?
Incredibly, even minors can face legal consequences for unlawful sexual activity with a minor. In other words, two teenagers who are under the age of 18 are, technically, both guilty of statutory rape if they engage in sex.
However, there are a few things to note:
- Usually, only one of the two minors will be prosecuted
- A good lawyer may be able to get the case dismissed so that you face no charges at all
- You do not face the criminal penalties above. Instead, your case will be handled by the juvenile courts, which tend to focus on rehabilitation rather than punishment.
No matter what age you are, one conviction for sex with a minor can follow you for life. You need to talk to a lawyer.
Talk to a Los Angeles “Sex with a Minor” Lawyer for Free
Don’t let your arrest turn into an incident that ruins years of your life. The Simmrin Law Group has the experience, knowledge, and record of success to protect you. We will take your side, fight for you, and work to bring you back the best possible result. Let us give give you a FREE consultation. Fill out the form to the right or call us at 310-997-4688 and get your free consultation today.