What You Need to Know About Statutory Rape Laws in California
With the rise of social media and dating apps, individuals are increasingly unaware of their sexual partner’s age. Some often assume their potential sexual partner is above the age of consent based on the way he or she looks, but looks can be very deceiving. Others are deceived into thinking their sexual partner is of age. Individuals ask themselves “Can I be charged with statutory rape if I thought my partner was over 18?”.
The hard truth is that yes, you can still be charged with statutory rape even if you were unaware your sexual partner was under the age of 18. This holds true even if your sexual partner lied to you about their age.
What is Statutory Rape?
In California, statutory rape involves sexual intercourse with a minor under the age of consent. Regardless of the victim’s consent, sex with a minor is always considered to be statutory rape because minors are statutorily unable to consent to sex.
The Age of Consent in California
California laws state that any individual under the age of 18 is considered a minor, and therefore unable to consent to sexual conduct. The age of consent may be different depending on your state, but generally range from 16 to 18 years old.
Any adult engaged in sexual intercourse with anyone under the age of 18 can be charged with statutory rape.
Regardless of the adult partner’s age, he or she can be charged with statutory rape.
Can I be charged with statutory rape if I was unaware of my partners age?
Under California Penal Code 261.5, an adult can be charged with statutory rape even if he or she is unaware their sexual partner was under the age of 18.
What if my underage sexual partner told me they were over 18?
California’s strict statutory rape laws mandate that even individuals who were deceived into believing their sexual partner was of age can still be charged with statutory rape.
Although these laws may seem unfair, California seeks to maximize the seriousness of rape charges. If one were to be let off the hook for such a charge, a precedent would be set, allowing future rape charges to be taken less lightly.
Examples of Statutory Rape
Individuals ask themselves “Can I be charged with statutory rape if I thought my partner was over 18?”. Below are scenarios of sexual conduct that may result in a statutory rape charge:
20 year old Harry met Isabella on a dating app. Isabella is 15 years old, but her dating profile states she is 18. Under the impression that Isabella is 18, Harry engages in sexual intercourse with Isabella. Under California Penal Code 261.5, Harry can be charged with statutory rape.
High school sweethearts Jane and Tony have been dating for three years. Tony is 18 years old and Jane is 17 years old, and Jane’s 18th birthday is that night at 12:01 AM. They engage in sexual intercourse for the first time at 11:59 PM that night. Under California Penal Code 261.5, Tony can be charged with statutory rape.
Ariel, 16, and Michelle, 19, meet in a coffee shop. They have a long conversation, and both individuals never mentioned their age. Later that night they meet and engage in sexual intercourse. Under California Penal Code 261.5, Michelle can be charged with statutory rape.
Penalties of Statutory Rape in California
A statutory rape sentence depends upon the circumstances at hand. Three circumstances that a statutory rape sentence are if the defendant:
- If the defendant is within three years of age of the alleged victim. In this situation, statutory rape would be considered a misdemeanor.
- If the defendant is more than three years older than the victim. In this situation, statutory rape can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony
- If the defendant is above 21 and the victim is under 16. In this situation, statutory rape would can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony.
The second and third circumstances are up to the District Attorney’s discretion. When determining whether to charge your case as a misdemeanor or felony, the district attorney will weigh factors such as your criminal history and the circumstances of the sexual encounter.
Statutory Rape Charges Outside of California
Some U.S. states have taken actions to protect individuals who were unaware of their sexual partner’s true age. In these cases, factors will be weighed such as the underage partner’s age, the defendant’s age and the circumstances of the sexual behavior.
Contact Pride Legal
If you or a loved one has been accused of statutory rape, we invite you to contact us at Pride Legal for legal counseling or any further questions. To protect your rights, hire someone who understands them.