Statutory rape is a term that many of us have heard but you may not know what the specific legal definition is or what the legal code regarding it says. It is a very important legal code to know because it happens more than you would think. California has several rape laws that protect people from forced or unwanted sexual intercourse. California's statutory rape law is unique in that it protects those who are deemed legally incapable of consenting to sexual intercourse. Because statutory rape law is applied in cases where the "victim" is legally incapable of giving consent, it doesn't matter whether or not they actually consent to the intercourse. This is because California law deems them incapable of doing so by default because of the status they hold. Those considered by California law as incapable of consenting to sexual intercourse are not just minors. Their inability to provide consent can be due to a mental or physical disability as well. They could willingly consent to sexual intercourse with an adult however the adult who does so can face criminal charges as a result.
It is important to go over the details of the California statutory rape law as it includes additional provisions regarding the age difference between the two parties to the act. Under California Penal Code 261.5, engaging in sexual intercourse with a minor no more than three years younger than you is charged as a misdemeanor crime in California. Engaging in sexual intercourse with a minor more than three years younger than you can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, punishable by up to one year in county jail. Likewise, a perpetrator over the age of 21 who engages in sexual intercourse with a minor under the age of 16 will face misdemeanor or felony charges, punishable by up to one year in county jail or between two and four years in prison.
California's statutory rape law also contains provisions regarding civil penalties the defendant must pay on top of any court fines, which can be up to $70. While the base fine for a statutory rape charge may seem low, the civil penalties are much higher and go towards the county treasury and California's Underage Pregnancy Prevention fund. The civil penalty for engaging in sexual intercourse with a minor less than two years younger than you is $2,000. The penalty for engaging in sexual intercourse with a minor more than two years younger than you is $5,000. The penalty for engaging in sexual intercourse with a minor at least three years younger than you is $10,000. The penalty for an adult over 21 years of age engaging in sexual intercourse with a minor less than 16 years of age is $25,000. In addition to these costs, you may also have to pay punitive damages to the victim but these are only ordered in extreme cases.
As you can see, on top of a highly stigmatized sex-crime charge, the monetary cost of a statutory rape charge can be significant. If you are facing a statutory rape charge, consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. This is a tough charge to face and you will be best served having an experienced attorney represent you. Proving the victim consented to sexual intercourse won't be enough to fight a charge, nor will claiming to have been unaware of the age of the victim, in most cases. If you genuinely had reason to believe the person was of age, you may have a legal defense if you can prove you were given the impression the person was over 18. For example, if you were shown a fake ID that demonstrated the person was 21 and you had no other reason to believe they were not indeed that age, you have a defense to work with.
If you or a loved one are being charged with statutory rape in the Tulare, Fresno or Kings County area, call experienced criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens today for expert counsel. At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, we can advise you on how best to proceed and defend yourself in court. Contact our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss a possible plan of action for your case.