In the state of California, it is a crime to have sex with anyone under 18 years old if you are not married to him or her. Therefore, the legal age to have sex in Califronia, or the age of consent is 18 years old. This applies whether the victim is male or female, and applies the same to both heterosexual and homosexual conduct. Having sex with another person who is under the age of consent is called defined by the law as stautaory rape. Statutory rape is defined as sexual intercourse with a person under 18 years of age.

This crime can often be referred to as unlawful sex with a minor, although this description includes other forms of sex besides intercourse. Sexual intercourse is defined as “any amount of penetration.” The person accused does not have to ejaculate to be charged with statutory rape. Instead, any penetration without consent is enough to charge someone. Statutory Rape is considered a “wobbler” crime, which means the prosecution can charge you with a Misdemeanor or a Felony, depending on facts of your case.

In California both people having sex underage can be charged with statutory rape. This is different then some jurisdictions where only one party can be charged. For example, in many other states, if two people under the age of consent are similar in age, then they can have sex without committing an age of consent crime. 

Also, in California, if two people both under the age of consent, have sex with each other, both parties are committing a crime. If this happens in California, both minor parties engaged in sexaul intercourse would be found criminally liable. It is important to note the age of consent and the ability of parents to consent for their children are issues that are decided differently depending on the jurisdiction.

What Can Happen If I Have Sex with Someone Underage?

As stated above, statutory rape punishment and sentence depeds upon whether the offense is charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. Moreover, the punishment for having sex with someone under the age of consent varies largely on the facts of the case. For example, 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 it is possible to be imprisoned for up to 1 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.

Another large obstacle faced by those convicted of statutory rape is being required to register as a sex offender with the state of California. If you are convicted of statutory rape in California, you may be required to register as a sex offender based on the California Penal Code. If the court requires you to register as a sex offender, you will have to update your registration with a local law enforcement agency for as long as you are domiciled in the state of California. 

As a registered sex offender, you may be required to live a certain amount of distance from a park or school, Additionally, you must live in an isolated area away from all activity including underage childern. The largest burden of being a labled sex offenders list is finding a place to live as most landlords look down upon this. 

Are there any Defenses to Violations of Age of Consent Laws?

There are several defenses that are available when one the age of Consent Laws are violated. These defenses can be unique to the facts of the case. Listed below are the most common defenses:

The first defense often applies to age of consent laws, but not in the state of California. Close in age exemptions, better known as “Romeo and Juliet laws” are put in place to prevent the prosecution of individuals who engage in consensual sexual activity when both participants are significantly close in age to each other, and one or both partners are below the age of consent. Because there is no such “Romeo and Juliet law” in California, it is possible for two persons, both under the age of 18 who willingly engage in consenual intercourse to both be prosecuted for statutory rape.

For example, if Mike who is 17 has sexual intercourse with Julia who is 18, some jurisdictions will apply a close-in-age exemption to Julia because the age differential between the two was only 1 year. However, as stated above, California is not one of these states and Julia will still be found to have been breaking the age of consent law.

The parties are already married- If one party is above the age of consent has sex with another party that is under the age of consent this will generally, result in breaking the law. However, if these parties are married to each they are exempt from the age of consent laws. 

Other defenses include:

  • Mistake of Age- Mistake of age is when you mistake the age of the person to be older than what they actually were. While mistake of age does not usually apply to statutory rape, some courts may be open to considering the argument. If you have evidence that you reasonably believed that a person was at least 18-years-old when you had sex with them, you may be able to escape criminal liability for your actions. 
  • Falsely Accused- A person may mistake the person that caused harm to them for someone else. In other cases, the person may feel embarrassed or ashamed to admit they had cousneual sexual intercouse with the accused indivual. Although rare, when the scenario does happen it’s usually the case when the accuser is in a serious relationship and does not want to disclose their sexual intercourse. 

When one of these defenses are raised, a police officer uses a number of different methods to help. Providing an alibi using helpful DNA evidence and having helpful witness testimony are all methods that help prove someone is innocent. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Age of Consent Matters?

In most cases, age of consent matters are sensitive and some find them to be embarrassing. If you are feeling unsure about age of consent or other related matters, it is a good idea to hire a criminal defense lawyer in your area for representation. 

If you need assistance with the age of consent matters or any of their defenses, your attorney will help you identify whether any defenses will be applicable to your situation. Finally, your lawyer can be on hand during trial to represent you during any court hearings, proceedings and trial if necessary.