Statutory rape laws vary drastically from state to state. But in California, if a person has sexual intercourse with minor 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 speak with a statutory rape lawyer before answering any questions for the police.
California Penal Code Section 261.5 (PC): Statutory Rape
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. 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.
It’s also important to point out that in cases involving two underage persons, prosecutors rarely press charges in San Diego County.
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 accusing the other party with statutory rape. In these cases, your San Diego 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?
Under 261.5 (PC), statutory rape charges can be either a misdemeanor or felony in California. In cases involving people who are no more than three years apart in age, the charges are always filed as 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. Typically, cases where the accused party has some type of authority over the minor, for example, they are a teacher, coach or boss of the minor, are viewed more harshly than situations where the juvenile would have felt less pressure to do as the adult says.
In cases where the crime can be filed as a misdemeanor or felony, your San Diego criminal defense attorney may be able to convince the prosecutor to charge the crime as a misdemeanor.
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. The sentence could be enhanced to carry as many as four years in the state prison if the defendant was over 21 and the alleged victim was under 16 when the intercourse was said to take place.
It is worth mentioning that while statutory rape is a sex crime, it does not require mandatory registration as a sex offender although this can 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 list, 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 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 to having sexual intercourse with a minor, though many defendants try to excuse themselves by arguing this point. In fact, stating this fact will only be used as evidence against you in your case.
Related Sex Crimes
Those charged with statutory rape may also face a number of related charges depending on the specifics of the case. These allegations may include sex crimes such as child molestation, sexual battery, child pornography or indecent exposure, or they may include non-sexual crimes against children such as child abuse or child endangerment.
Whatever the details of the case, it is critical anyone accused of this crime contact a San Diego criminal defense lawyer experienced in fighting accusations of statutory rape as soon as possible. Never speak to the police without your criminal defense attorneys present. If you have have been charged with this crime or have any questions, please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free consultation with San Diego statutory rape lawyer Peter M. Liss.
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