If sex with someone under 18 years old is illegal, then what about married teens in California? Are they still allowed to be intimate with their spouses? Here are the ins and outs of marriage with minors in relation to the state’s statutory rape laws.
Child Marriage Laws in California
While it may come as a shock to many, California actually has no minimum legal age for marriage as long as one parent and a judge both consent to the union. Legislators recently tried to increase the minimum age to marry to 18, but lobbyists argued that underage marriages offer some juveniles the opportunity to get out of the foster system, away from their abusive parents, or to raise a child conceived out of wedlock with married parents.
The law still added some protections for minors attempting to marry though, requiring a 30 day waiting period for marriage licenses unless the underage party is over 17 and a high school graduate or one of the parties is pregnant. Additionally, in all cases the two parties and the minor’s parents must now meet individually with a court official in order to assess whether abuse or coercion has played a role in the agreement to marry.
Additionally, California recognizes most marriages involving one or more underage party that were performed in either another state or another country.
Underage Marriages and Statutory Rape
Naturally, anyone married is legally allowed to have sexual relations with their spouse, though many argue this is a way for pedophiles to bypass the state’s laws against sex with minors. That being said, statutory rape laws could still apply if the underage party had sex with someone other than their spouse. Also, the couple is only legally allowed to have sex after they were married, so if one of the parties gets pregnant and they decide to get married as a result, prosecutors could still press charges related to their sexual encounters prior to the marriage.
While it can be rare for prosecutors to filed statutory rape charges against a couple getting married when one of the parties is underage, it is more likely to happen if the age difference is particularly drastic or if the minor is particularly young. The new laws requiring a court official to determine if coercion or abuse have take place may also result in additional statutory rape charges being filed in these cases in the future.
Child Pornography and Child Marriage
It’s worth noting that regardless of whether or not two parties are married, photographs, video or other recordings of a minor involved in sexual activity or nude are considered to be child pornography. If the images have been shared with anyone else, the charges could go beyond simple possession or creation of child pornography and include the distribution of child porn.
All charges regarding child pornography should be taken very seriously, even if the images depict your spouse. If you have been accused of this crime, it is critical you talk to a San Marcos child pornography lawyer as soon as possible. Do not speak to the police without your attorney present.
If you have any questions about child marriage and sex crimes involving children, Escondido statutory rape attorney Peter M. Liss can help. Please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation.
Creative Commons Image by Dr. Wendy Longo