Statutory rape charges are based on the age difference between the defendant and the other person. If the victim is under California’s age of consent, he or she cannot legally consent to sexual intercourse. Statutory rape can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor depending on the situation, but in both cases, the penalties can be severe if the defendant is convicted. In certain situations, the court may even require a convicted defendant to register as a sex offender. If a loved one has been arrested and charged with statutory rape in Ventura County or Santa Barbara County, you are urged to contact a Ventura criminal defense lawyer of Bamieh & De Smeth immediately for legal assistance.
Consequences for Statutory Rape in CA (Unlawful Sex with a Minor)
In California, statutory rape is also referred to as “unlawful sexual intercourse” or “unlawful sex with a minor.” This crime is defined and prosecuted under Cal. Penal Code § 261.5.
Cal. Penal Code § 261.5(a) provides the legal definition of statutory rape in California:
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. For the purposes of this section, a ‘minor’ is a person under the age of 18 years and an ‘adult’ is a person who is at least 18 years of age.
Statutory rape is a type of crime that California calls a “wobbler,” which means a crime that can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. Whether statutory rape is a felony charge or misdemeanor charge depends on the age difference between the defendant and the minor.
For example, under Cal. Penal Code § 261.5(b), statutory rape is a misdemeanor if the minor was up to three years younger than the defendant at the time of the alleged offense. Misdemeanor statutory rape sentencing in California may be up to one year in jail.
Statutory rape is a wobbler under Cal. Penal Code § 261.5(c) if the minor was more than three years younger than the defendant at the time of the alleged offense. If charged as a misdemeanor under these circumstances, a convicted defendant can be jailed for up to one year. If charged as a felony, a convicted defendant can receive a sentence of 16 months, two years, or three years in accordance with Cal. Penal Code § 1170(h)(1).
Statutory rape is also a wobbler under Cal. Penal Code § 261.5(d) when both of the following apply:
- The defendant was at least 21 years old when the crime allegedly occurred.
- The minor was less than 16 years old when the crime allegedly occurred.
In a case where the defendant was at least 21, and the minor was 15 or younger, misdemeanor penalties may include up to one year in jail. If this type of case is prosecuted as a felony and the defendant is convicted, the defendant may be sentenced to two, three, or four years.
Defendants should be made aware that there are also civil penalties for statutory rape, which can be quite costly. Depending on the circumstances, the defendant may be fined an amount of up to $2,000, $5,000, $10,000, or $25,000.
Furthermore, the defendant may be forced to register as a sex offender at the court’s discretion, which is one of the reasons effective, proactive legal representation is so crucial in these delicate and difficult cases.
California Penal Code 261.5 Statute of Limitations
While both involve the passage of time, the age of consent should not be confused with the statute of limitations, which is a completely different concept. The age of consent is the minimum age at which a person can legally give consent to sexual intercourse under California’s laws. The statute of limitations describes how long a prosecutor has to file charges against a person suspected of committing a crime.
The age of consent in California is 18 years of age. Anyone age 17 or younger is below the age of consent. The statute of limitations on statutory rape ranges from one year (for misdemeanors) to three years (for felonies) in California.
For additional information, you may wish to read about California rape charges (Penal Code 261).
Ventura Sex Crime Lawyers Handling Statutory Rape Charges
If you or one of your family members was accused of statutory rape or related sex offenses, there is not a moment to lose seeking out legal representation from an experienced Ventura sex crime attorney.
At The Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC, our California sex crime lawyers have more than 22 years of experience handling felony and misdemeanor charges in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties. We understand how to approach these cases strategically, and will fight aggressively to protect your rights while pursuing a favorable outcome. To set up a free and completely confidential legal consultation, contact our law offices right away at (805) 643-5555.