Statutory rape is unlawful sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 18 who is not the spouse of the perpetrator. California Penal Code 261.5. The specific charges and penalties depend on the age differences between the individuals. Consent is not a defense to statutory rape charges. The minor can even be the one to initiate sex and the adult will be criminally charged. Even if the individuals involved have had a long-term relationship and agree to have intercourse, under California law, a minor is not able to legally consent to sexual intercourse.
A conviction for statutory rape may also require registration as a sex offender. Sex offender registration can be a lifetime requirement, with penalties for failing to register, and publicly-available websites allow anyone to see the offender’s name, face, location, and description of their offense. This lifetime sex offender requirement is oftentimes the most difficult punishment to deal with in statutory rape cases.
Unfortunately, many innocent people end up arrested for statutory rape. Parents of a minor teenager may not like the fact that their daughter is dating someone over the age of 18 and report statutory rape even if the couple never had sex. A minor who feels scorned after an adult love interest refuses to have sex and may report statutory rape as a way to seek revenge. An ex may report statutory rape out of jealousy that a former boyfriend or girlfriend broke up with them.
Unfounded statutory rape charges can have a devastating impact on someone’s life. Many people may immediately judge them as guilty, even before they’ve had a chance to defend themselves. After an aggressive prosecutor gets involved, the innocent defendant may feel like they have no option but to plead guilty and take a deal.
Before giving up your rights and pleading guilty, you should talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney. Your attorney will investigate your case, identify your strongest defenses, and fight to keep you out of jail. Your attorney can bring forth witnesses to dispute wrongful accusations and challenge the alleged victim’s story, clearing you of any wrongdoing.
Statutory rape may be a misdemeanor or felony offense, depending on the age of people involved and on the individual facts of the case.
In some cases, an individual charged with statutory rape may receive probation. However, if probation is granted, the defendant may be subjected to a minimum probationary period; a protective order to stay away from the victim; counseling; community service; and other conditions of probation. Violating probation can result in additional penalties.