In California, it is a crime to have sex with anyone under 18 years old if you are not married to him or her. Thus, the age of consent is 18 years old. The law is written in gender-neutral language, so it applies whether the victim is male or female, and applies the same to both heterosexual and homosexual conduct.

California is rare in that it has one age of consent that applies across the board. For example, in many other states, if two people under the age of consent are close to the same age, then they can have sex without committing a crime. In California, if two people, both under the age of consent, have sex with each other, both are committing a crime. Both parties to the act would be simultaneously victims and offenders.

What Can Happen If I Have Sex with Someone Underage?

If there is a 3 year age gap, whether older or younger, between you and the underage person you have sex with, it is only considered a misdemeanor and you can be imprisoned up to a maximum of one year.

If you are over 21 years old and you have sex with someone under 16 years old, you can get an enhanced criminal sentence, meaning a longer prison term and may be forced to pay a civil penalty up to $25,000.

California law also makes distinctions for the purpose of civil penalties between if there was a 2 year or more age difference between the parties. If there is less than a 2 year difference between the parties, the civil penalty is capped at $2,000, but if there is a 2 year or more difference than the penalty is capped at $5,000.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

If you have been accused of statutory rape you should speak with a California lawyer immediately. An experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to advise you of your rights, help you with a defense, and advise you as to what options may be open to you.