Statutory rape laws vary drastically from state to state. But when it comes to the law in California, if a person has sex with a child under the age of 18, he or she has committed statutory rape regardless of his or her age and whether or not the victim consented. The law is that basic, which is why it is critical anyone who has been accused of having sex with a minor in San Diego should speak with a Vista statutory rape lawyer before answering any questions for the police.
California Statutory Rape Law
When it comes to statutory rape, it does not matter if the minor initiated the sexual intercourse or if both parties are under the age of 18, it is still a crime. In cases involving two underage persons though, the prosecution will rarely press charges in these cases in San Diego County. The only time it is legal for a minor to have sex is if he or she is married to that person. It’s important to note that it is legal for a minor to date someone and then have sex with him or her, as long as the actual intercourse occurred after the minor turns 18.
Prosecuting These Crimes isn’t Easy
Fortunately, while the law defining statutory rape is pretty cut and dry, prosecuting it is often more complex. That’s because the prosecution must prove that the parties were not married, did have sex and that the alleged victim was under 18 at the time the intercourse occurred. In many cases, finding sufficient evidence to prove sex occurred is difficult, especially if the minor is uncooperative with the police and prosecutors, or if the child or their parents have something to gain by charging the other party with statutory rape. In these cases, your Vista statutory rape attorney can base their defense on the idea that the accusers have reason to make such claims, and may be willing to lie or bend the truth in order to get their way.
Is Statutory Rape a Misdemeanor or Felony
California statutory rape law says that these charges can be either a misdemeanor or felony. In cases involving people who are no more than three years apart in age, the charges will be a misdemeanor. If the age difference is greater than three years, the prosecutor will decide whether to charge the crime as a misdemeanor or felony based on the defendant’s criminal background and the specifics of the case. In these cases, your criminal defense attorney may be able to convince the prosecutor to charge the crime as a misdemeanor rather than a felony.
Penalties for Statutory Rape
Misdemeanor statutory rape charges carry a penalty of up to one year of jail time and $1,000 in fines while felonies carry a maximum sentence of three years in state prison although it could be as long as four years if the defendant was over 21 and the alleged victim was under 16 when the intercourse was said to take place. While statutory rape is a sex crime, it does not require mandatory registration as a sex offender although this could still be added as part of the sentence. In cases where you may be at risk of being required to go on the state’s sex offender registration, your lawyer may be able to negotiate a plea bargain that will ensure this does not happen.
Fighting the Charges
The most common defense for those accused of breaking the California statutory rape law is simple, but effective -the honest belief that the person involved in the sexual activity was over 18. It is hard for the prosecution to prove that you knew someone was under 18 in most cases, particularly if you met him or her at a bar or club where people must be over 18 or even 21 to gain access.
Consent is not a defense in these crimes, though many defendants try to excuse themselves by arguing this point. That is why it is critical you contact with a lawyer experienced in fighting statutory rape charges before you speak to the police and risk saying something that could hurt your case. If you have have been charged with this crime or have any questions, schedule a free consultation with sex crimes lawyer Peter M. Liss, please contact him today by calling (760) 643-4050.
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