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Age of 'Consent' in California

Each state has enacted 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.


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, especially if the minor’s parents found out about the sexual relations and wanted to press charges.


Under 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.

Related: Will California Legalize Prostitution?

Accused of statutory rape in Orange County? Contact the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, Inc. for a free criminal defense consultation!