Statutory rape occurs whenever someone has sex with a person under the age of 18. It does not matter if the sex is consensual or even if the minor initiated the act, if someone has sex with a minor, they can be charged with statutory rape. In fact, even teenagers may be charged with the crime for having intercourse with another teenager, although it is rare for the prosecution to press charges in consensual relationships between two minors. If you have been accused of statutory rape, whether the charges are just or not, it is critical you immediately contact a top Vista criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.
Statutory rape is a complex crime because the prosecution must be able to prove that the two parties involved did have sexual intercourse, that the two persons were not legally married to one another and that the minor was, in fact, under the age of 18 at the time. For example, if an adult and minor were dating, but did not consummate their relationship until the minor’s 18th birthday, statutory rape did not occur. Alternatively, if a couple was legally married before they had intercourse, they cannot be convicted for this crime, even if one or both parties were underage.
Statutory rape accusations often get ugly because minors and their parents have been known to falsely accuse people of statutory rape for a variety of reasons. If you have been accused of this crime, you will need the help of a top Vista criminal defense attorney, even if you never even met the alleged victim before the accusations were made.
Statutory rape may be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor and the penalties will vary drastically depending on the circumstances -particularly the age difference between the two parties. If the people involved in the sexual act were no more than three years apart in age, the crime will always be a misdemeanor, otherwise it could be a misdemeanor or a felony, which the prosecutor will decide based on the specifics of the case and the defendant’s criminal history. Your Vista criminal defense attorneys may be able to help convince the prosecutor to charge the crime as a misdemeanor to minimize your potential sentence. If the crime is a misdemeanor, you could face up to one year in jail and $1,000 in fines. If it is charged as a felony, you could face $10,000 in fines and up to three years in custody, or up to four years in prison if you were over 21 and the victim was under 16 at the time of the sexual intercourse. Fortunately, even if you are convicted for this crime, statutory rape does not require mandatory registration as a sex offender, although judges still have the option to require it as part of your sentence.
There are many defenses to statutory rape, but one of the strongest is showing that you honestly and reasonably believed the other party was over 18. For example, if the alleged victim told you he or she was over the age of 18, if he or she had a fake ID that said he or she was over 18 or if you meant at a bar or club where entrance is only granted to those with ID to prove they are over 18 or 21. Unfortunately, consent is not a case in statutory rape crimes, which is why you should immediately call a criminal defense lawyer in Vista as soon as you have been accused of this crime to ensure you do not say anything to harm your defense.