A person 21 years or older who engages in sexual intercourse under the age of 18 years old is guilty of statutory rape or “unlawful intercourse” in violation of Penal Code section 261.5(d).To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the People must prove that:
1. The defendant had sexual intercourse with another person;
2. The defendant and the other person were not married to each other at the time of the intercourse;
3. The defendant was at least 21 years old at the time of the intercourse;
4. The other person was under the age of 18 years at the time of the intercourse.
Under California law, sexual intercourse means any penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or genitalia by the penis. Further, a person is deemed to have turned 18 the first minute of the day of his or her birthday.
Prosecutors hold the discretion to charge statutory rape as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the facts of the case. When charged as a misdemeanor, the potential penalties include probation, a maximum one year county jail sentence, and/or up to one thousand dollars ($1,000) in fines.
If convicted under felony charges penalties for statutory rape include probation with up to one year county jail, sixteen (16) months, two (2) years or three (3) years in custody. In cases involving a defendant 21 or older and the alleged victim was under 16, potential sentence is two (2) years, three (3) years or four (4) years in custody and up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000) in fines.
Under California law, a conviction for statutory rape under Penal Code 261.5 alone does not require registration as a sex offender. However, certain related offenses do require sex offender registration, including rape and lewd and lascivious acts with a child.
Defenses to statutory rape in California rest in two areas. The first deals with whether or not intercourse occurred. Here a Defendant would be required to present evidence to rebut the fact that penetration occurred. This would largely be a matter of witness testimony and circumstantial evidence. In some cases, the alleged victim may have misrepresented his or her age as being over 18 years old or the Defendant may have held a reasonable belief that the alleged victim was over the age of 18. As such, the Defendant may raise the defense of reasonable mistake as to the age of the alleged victim. Under this recognized defense to statutory rape, the defendant would present evidence that he or she reasonably and believed that the other person was age 18 or older. In some cases, a Defendant may attempt to allege that the intercourse was consensual. Even if the alleged victim allowed the Defendant to engage in intercourse with him or her, legally the relationship could not be consensual given the fact the victim, by virtue of his or her age, was not capable of granting legal consent. As such, it is not a defense that the alleged victim may have consented to the intercourse and may be detrimental to the defense of the case, as it would constitute an admission of wrongful conduct.
Given the high risk involved with a statutory rape charge, it is important to seek experienced counsel if you are the subject of an investigation or are detained by law enforcement. Regardless of whether or not the case proceeds to trial, the seriousness of a California statutory rape charge requires the assistance of a skilled and committed California criminal lawyer who knows every legal argument when defending clients.
If you have been arrested for the crime of statutory rape in the Visalia, California area, contact an expert criminal lawyer as soon as possible to protect your legal rights.
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