Statutory rape laws vary drastically from state to state, but in California, if a person has sex with someone under the age of 18, he or she has committed statutory rape. The law is that basic, which is why it is critical anyone accused of statutory rape speak with a San Diego sex crimes attorney before answering any questions for the police.
In cases involving statutory rape, it does not matter if the minor initiated the act 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. 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.
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 minor or their parents have something to gain by charging the other party with statutory rape. In these cases, a San Diego criminal lawyer can help show the accusers have reason to make such claims, and may be willing to lie or bend the truth in order to get their way.
Statutory rape 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 proseuctor 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. A San Diego criminal lawyer may be able to convince the prosecutor to charge the crime as a misdemeanor rather than a felony.
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 imprisonment 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 labeled a sex offender, your San Diego criminal attorney may be able to negotiate a plea bargain that will ensure this does not happen.
The most common defense to statutory rape 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 speak with a San Diego sex crimes attorney before you speak to the police and risk saying something that could hurt your case. If you have any questions or would like to schedule a free initial consultation with San Diego defense lawyer Peter M. Liss, please call (760) 643-4050 OR (858) 486-3024.
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