In California and throughout the nation, the states have enacted what is
called an “age of consent” law. Age of consent laws refer
to the legal age where someone can consent to sex. In California, the
age of consent in
18-years-of-age. Meaning, someone has to be at least 18 to voluntarily engage in sexual activity.
For teenagers 17-years-of-age and younger, they cannot legally consent
to sexual activity. So, if someone age 18 or older has sex with someone
below the age of 18, they can be criminally prosecuted under California’s
statutory rape law.
What if the Teen Consents?
Suppose a 19-year-old man has
sex with a 17-year-old girl. In fact, “hooking up” was the girl’s
idea and she was the one to make romantic advances upon the 19-year-old.
Can he still be prosecuted since she clearly consented to the sex? Yes,
he can still face criminal prosecution because under the law, the girl
was too young to consent to sex.
Does California have exceptions for individuals who are close in age? California
does not have exemptions for people who are close in age. Often, such
exceptions are known as “Romeo and Juliet” laws, and some
states enacted them to protect individuals who participate in voluntary
sexual intercourse with someone who is close in age, but below the state’s
age of consent.
Since California does not have a Romeo and Juliet law, an 18-year-old can
have sexual relations with a 17-year old and in effect, he or she would
not have any legal protections. They could still be prosecuted for statutory rape.
Unlawful Sexual Intercourse is a ‘Wobbler’
Penal Code Section 261.5(a) it reads, “Unlawful sexual intercourse is an act of sexual intercourse
accomplished with a person who is not the spouse of the perpetrator, if
the person is a minor.” Under Sec. 261.5(5), a minor is anyone under
the age of 18 and an adult is anyone who is 18-years-of-age or older.
Statutory rape in California is a “wobbler” offense, which
means it can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the
age difference between the victim and the perpetrator. Furthermore, anyone
who engages in unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor may be subject
to a civil penalty ranging between $2,000 and $25,000.
Accused of statutory rape in Orange County?
Contact the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, Inc. for a free
criminal defense consultation!