What Is The Legal Age Of Consent In California?

Last Modified: June 18, 2024
February 9, 2022 | Rabin Nabizadeh | Rape Attorney, Sex Crimes
what-is-the-legal-age-of-consent-in-californiaCalifornia has set a legal age of consent that makes it illegal for anyone to have sexual intercourse with someone below the age of consent. Adults who take part in a sexual interaction with a minor can be charged with statutory rape.

Statutory rape is a severe crime in the United States. In California, it’s illegal to have sex with anyone younger than 18 years old, even if they agree to have sex or you believe that they did. Unlawful sexual intercourse is heavily punished in California.

In this article, we will talk about the legal age of consent and what makes up the consent laws in California. We will also explain the statutory rape charges under California Law. If you want to learn more about consent law, keep on reading.

What Is California’s Age Of Consent For Sex?

According to California Law, individuals aged 18 and above can legally partake in consensual sex. An adult caught having sex with a minor below the age of consent will be subjected to severe criminal liability. California sets harsh punishments for these predators.

California Penal Code 261.5 establishes the law for unlawful sexual relations. The punishment of this law extends to young adults aged 18 years old who had sex with minors below the age of consent. Violators of this statute will receive a statutory rape charge.

The legal definition of sexual intercourse refers to any form of sexual penetration. This includes oral sex, anal sex, or vaginal sex. Ejaculation is not needed to confirm intercourse, and even a slight “touch” is considered a sexual interaction.

What Is Statutory Rape?

statutory-rape-in-californiaSexual interaction with a minor under 18 is defined as statutory rape. The crime isn’t limited to intercourse. Prosecutors can also charge defendants with this offense for other types of inappropriate sexual contact.

California Penal Code 261.5 is also known as the statutory rape law. This statute makes it a crime for an adult to have sex with a minor. Regardless of whether the sex is consensual or not, a convict can still be held liable for their actions.

You will face serious criminal consequences if you are incriminated against statutory rape under California Penal Code section 261.5 PC. The court can punish a convicted individual with years of imprisonment and hefty penalty fines.

In addition, being convicted of statutory rape will need you to register as a tier three sex offender. Under California’s new registration act, statutory rape is a third-tier crime. This tier contains the most severe sexual crimes with severe punishments.

Statutory Rape Laws

California Law established numerous laws to protect minors from sexual assault. The state of California punishes sexual offenders with grave consequences. Other than Penal Code 261.5, other regulations are set to punish offenders depending on the nature of their sex crime against minors.

The following local statutes are in effect to keep the safety of minors below 18 years of age:

Penal Code 261.5

As established in previous sections, this statute is the primary law protecting the rights of minors from statutory rape. Penal Code 261.5 is also referred to as The Statutory Rape Law. According to this law, statutory rape is a wobbler offense.

The law states that if a victim and their perpetrator have less than three years difference in age, their offense will be a misdemeanor. Otherwise, it will either be a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the nature of the offense.

Misdemeanor offenses are punished with up to a one-year county jail sentence. In addition, the defendant will also have to pay up to $1,000 penalty fines. If considered a felony offense, the defendant will face up to four years imprisonment and $10,000 fines.

Penal Code 287

California Penal Code 287 makes it a crime to have consensual oral sex with a minor under 18. The law was formerly known as Penal Code 288a. But due to numerous confusion with another law, the court moved to renumber the said law.

Generally speaking, the punishment for violating this law is a wobbler. However, there are specific situations when oral copulation is considered a felony. Such as:

  • The victim is under 14 years old, and the defendant is ten years older than the victim (Tier 2 offense);
  • The victim is under 14 years old, and the defendant inflicts force or threat to the victim (Tier 3 offense);
  • The victim is over 14 years old but under 18 years old, and the defendant inflicts force or threat to the victim (Tier 3 offense);
  • The victim is under 16 years old, and the defendant is over 21 years old (Tier 1 offense).

Situations other than the ones mentioned above fall as a misdemeanor.

Punishments for a felony offense include a maximum sentence of 8 to 12 years imprisonment. In addition, the felon will also have to pay up to $10,000 fines. Moreover, according to the law, the defendant is subjected to sex offender registration.

A misdemeanor offense has a punishment of up to 1-year imprisonment and $1,000 penalty fines. Misdemeanor charges are classified as Tier 1 offenses.

Penal Code 289

Penal Code 289 makes it a crime to have penetrative sex with an underaged minor. Regardless of whether it’s a consensual sexual activity, the law still recognizes this action as a criminal sexual act. Violators of the law will be registered under the sex offender registry.

This is a felony offense with grave legal consequences. Felons will face imprisonment of up to 8 years in California state prison. In addition, a convicted individual will have to pay up to $10,000 fine charges.

Penal Code 288

Penal Code 288 illegalizes anyone from having lewd and lascivious acts with children. Touching a child’s sensitive body parts is considered a lewd and lascivious act. Influencing a child to ‘touch’ themselves is also covered in this law.

Violating Penal Code 288 is a felony crime. Any adults caught inappropriately touching a child will be punished with up to 8 years imprisonment in California state prison. Furthermore, felons will be charged with up to $10,000 fines.

Is “Romeo And Juliet Law” Applicable In California?

Romeo and Juliet Laws, also referred to as the close in age exemption law, do not exist in California. The Romeo and Juliet Law prohibits the prosecution of minors who take part in consensual sexual activities. This is only applicable if both sexual partners have relative proximity of age and are below the age of consent.

Since California does not have this law, underaged individuals who engage in sexual activities can face criminal charges. But, the punishment is slightly different. This is because both parties are under the age of legal consent.

Exception Where A Minor Can Have Sexual Relation With An Adult

exception-minor-have-sexual-relation-with-adultUnder the law of California, there is one exemption when a minor can have a sexual relationship with a legal adult. California is one of the few states that does not have a minimum age for marriage. Because of this, a minor married to a legal adult can engage in sexual activities.

But, it should be consensual sexual intercourse. Otherwise, the partner who forced a sexual interaction can be charged with spousal rape. This is another statute under California regulations that protects spouses from unconsented sexual interactions.

Can I Date A Minor In California?

Currently, there are no rules preventing adults from dating a minor. However, this is firmly not advisable. An adult with a romantic relationship with a minor is legally prohibited from engaging in sexual activities. They are also not allowed to share or buy alcoholic beverages with them.

A registered offender cannot date a minor. Also, anyone with a criminal record is restricted from having a relationship with an underaged child. A child’s teacher and other authority figures cannot have a romantic relationship with a minor they are supervising.

Are You Accused Of Statutory Rape In California? Know Your Legal Defenses

legal-defenses-statutory-rape-in-californiaThere are numerous legal defenses you can utilize when facing statutory rape charges in California. We listed some of the most common defenses most defendants can use when facing false statutory rape allegations:

  • Incorrect accusations. You can argue that the accusations thrown at you are incorrect. There’s a good chance that you are misidentified by another person.
  • Within the age of consent. You can argue that both you and the other party are within the legal age of consent.
  • No sexual interaction occurred. In California, even the slightest sexual act is statutory rape. You can argue that no sexual interaction occurred between you and the other party.

The burden of proving your innocence is up to you. You must have the best criminal defense attorney for this situation. An experienced sex crime defense lawyer can help you build a good defense strategy to avoid criminal charges and punishments.

Contact A Criminal Defense Attorney At Summit Defense To Learn More

california-criminal-defense-attorneyThe state of California is strict when it comes to sex crimes. When you face a situation similar to what was discussed here, you should speak with a criminal defense attorney right away. It’s vital that your sex crime defense attorney is focused on building a solid attorney-client relationship with you.

At Summit Defense, our criminal defense lawyers have years of formidable experience with these situations. We have helped numerous clients in the past to minimize penalties for their charges. In some cases, we were able to have the court drop their charges completely.

If you want to have an expert lawyer handle your case, call us now at 1-866-852-0507! We offer a free consultation for your initial case review. You may also fill up our online form here.

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