California Rape Sentencing Guidelines

Sentences for rape charges can vary greatly. There are frequent news articles discussing the amount of jail time or probation received as punishment for a rape case. In many cases, the penalties you ultimately face when convicted for rape may be different than what the statute says the penalties should be. The Ventura sex crime defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth discuss California’s sentencing guidelines for rape and sexual assault and explain how these penalties might change depending on the specifics of your case. If you were charged with sexual assault in CA, contact our law offices today for help with your case.

What Are the Penalties for Rape under California Law?

The main rape statute in California is Penal Code 261. This law covers sexual intercourse under various circumstances where the victim does not consent, including situations where force or drugs are used. There are additional rape statutes that cover things like statutory rape (Penal code 261.5), spousal rape (Penal Code 262), and other similar offenses.

Rape and spousal rape are generally punished by 3, 6, or 8 years in prison. If the victim is under 14 at the time of the alleged crime, the penalty is increased to 9, 11, or 13 years. If the victim was 15, 16, or 17, the penalties are 7, 9, or 11 years in prison.

This is separate from the penalties for statutory rape. Statutory rape occurs when an adult has sexual intercourse with a minor, even if there is evidence of consent. Minors cannot legally consent to sex, so the adult is almost always open to statutory rape charges for sex with a minor.

In many cases of statutory rape, the defendant can face up to a year in prison. If the actor was within 3 years of the victim’s age, the penalties may be reduced, or a suspended sentence (probation) may be issued. If the victim was over 21 years old and the victim was under 16, the penalties may be up to a year in jail or 2, 3, or 4 years in prison.

Sentencing Guidelines in California

Criminal statutes in California do not commonly give a set time amount of jail time. In most cases, the statute will either state that the penalty is “imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year,” or the statute will give a set of three options for a number of years in prison. This makes it difficult to know exactly how much jail time you will reasonably face for the offense, but it does give you a clear idea of the potential maximum you could face.

Many crimes are eligible for sentencing under “subdivision (h) of Section 1170” instead of jail time. This means that they are eligible for a suspended sentence. When you receive a suspended sentence, you are given probation instead of jail time. Probation allows you to remain out of prison where you will be required to check in with a probation officer for supervision. You may have limited rights, including limits on traveling or interacting with the victim of the crime you were convicted of, but you will not be locked up. If you are accused of a probation violation, your suspended sentence will be activated, and you will be resentenced to a prison term.

Suspended sentences are not available for every type of crime, and many sexual offenses are excluded from this type of sentencing. However, Penal Code 261.5 specifically authorizes suspended sentencing for statutory rape.

In many rape cases charged under Penal Code 261, judges will not consider a suspended sentence. This means that you will face either 3, 6, or 8 years in prison (or higher penalties if your crime involves a child).

Courts take the permissible ranges or options given in the statute and decide a final sentence based on factors of the case. Penal Code 1170 demands that sentences be “proportionate to the seriousness of the offense,” and the penalty given should generally be one of the options given within the statute. If the judge gives additional penalties, such as a fine or probation, the judge may deviate from the sentence in the statute.

Judges decide between given sentencing options (e.g., 2, 3, or 4 years in prison) by looking at how serious the case was. Courts consider the violence of the rape offense, whether drugs were used, whether the actor knew the victim, and other factors to determine how serious the offense was. Courts also look at the defendant’s cooperation with law enforcement, willingness to take responsibility for their actions, and other factors which could potentially lower your sentence. Our Ventura criminal defense attorneys can help argue for a reduced sentence.

The final decision for a sentence is up to the judge. The prosecutor and the victim may request high sentences, but a judge may choose a low sentence or even deviate below the lowest sentence when appropriate.

Call Our Ventura Rape Defense Lawyers for Help with Your Sexual Assault Charges

If you were accused of rape or sexual assault in California, contact the criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth today. Our attorneys offer free, confidential legal consultations to help our clients understand the charges and potential penalties they face in their case. To schedule your free legal consultation, call us today at (805) 643-5555.

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