California statutory rape law

If you have been charged by the law with California statutory rape crime , Lluis Law’s sex crime attorneys can help. We have over 50 years of combined experience handling these types of cases in state courts.

In this article we explain what rape crime consists of, sanctions and possible defenses. Being accused of rape does not in any way mean that you will be convicted, as the crime must be proven.


Call any of our criminal lawyers and request a free consultation to present your case to us. We will tell you what options are available to you.

What is the rape crime in California 2020?

Statutory rape consists of having sexual relations with a minor. For the purposes of the law, the crime is established regardless of whether it was consensual or not. 

California Penal Code 261.5 sanctions it as a misdemeanor or serious crime. A person accused of this crime can be punished with prison terms and severe fines.

The law establishes that any sexual relationship with a minor under the age of 18 is a crime. Regardless of whether there is a close age between the two people, as stated by the Romeo and Juliet Law. For example, a couple of 19 years old the man and 17 the woman.  

Some states allow consensual sex between close-aged couples, but California does not have this legal exception.

Elements of California rape crime 

For a person to be convicted of statutory rape, the prosecutor must prove the following elements:

  1. The defendant had sexual relations with another person (there was penetration regardless of his level with or without ejaculation);
  2. The people involved in the act were not spouses at the time. 
  3. The alleged victim was under the age of eighteen at the time the crime occurred.

The crime is constituted regardless of whether there has been use of force or not. Nor does the prosecutor have to demonstrate that the victim did not consent. Unlike ordinary rape (California Penal Code 261) where consent is key.

child sexual abuse

So under California statutory rape law, the love relationship between the couple does not excuse the crime. They can be boyfriends, lovers or even fiancees. What defines it is the age between the two people who participate in the sexual act.

Specifying the age of the parties at the time of sexual intercourse is crucial in determining the crime. 

Determination of the victim’s age

The law states that a person is one year older after midnight (12:01 am) on their birthday. That is, if the accused and the alleged victim had sexual intercourse before 12 am, they will not have another year. 

On the other hand, if the sexual relationship took place at 12:01 am, then the age of the accused will increase one year.

Rape penalties

For being a wobbler crime in California, statutory rape can be punished as a misdemeanor or felony. It depends on the circumstances of the fact, the age of the perpetrator and her criminal record.

As the age difference between the accused and the minor increases, the crime will be punished with more severe penalties. For example, a minor of 15 years and a man of 25.

The imputation of the crime and the possible sanctions will then depend on whether: 

  • The age of the accused with respect to the alleged victim is not more than three years. Legal violation will be a misdemeanor.
  • The age of the accused is over three years of the alleged victim. The crime can be punished as a minor or major crime.
  • She is 21 years of age or older and the alleged victim is under the age of 16 at the time of the sexual relationship. It is punishable as a misdemeanor or serious crime. 

As a serious crime, sanctions are more severe. For this, the prosecutor will make the decision based on the facts and the criminal history of the accused.

Rape as a misdemeanor

The penalties for statutory rape as a misdemeanor in any circumstance are as follows:

  • Informal probation (misdemeanor or summary);
  • Maximum sentence of one year in prison in a county jail; me
  • Fine of up to $ 1,000.

Rape as a felony

Criminal penalties for statutory rape include:

  • Probation (formal or informal) with up to one year in prison in a county jail; or
  • From 16 months to two or three years in prison. Unless the accused is 21 years of age or older and the alleged victim is under 16 years of age. In that case the sentence could be two, three or four in prison.
  • Fine of up to $ 10,000.

Civil penalties for illegal intercourse 

The California rape law also provides for civil penalties for persons convicted of this crime. Said sanctions are established only for adult defendants and those over 18 years of age. 

  • $ 2,000 fine when the victim is two years younger than the accused.
  • $ 5,000 fine if the victim is at least two less than the accused.
  • $ 10,000 fine if the victim is at least three years younger than the accused.
  • Fine of $ 25,000 if the victim was under 16 years old and the accused over 21 years old.

Can a minor be charged with statutory rape in California?

Definitely yes according to California statutory rape law. That answers the question of whether an 18-year-old can date a 17-year-old in California. Although it may seem a little strange, the law penalizes sexual relations regardless of whether they are both under 18 years old.

Although it is not frequent to prosecute a young man of 18 years old for having sex with someone 17 years old. However, it could happen because California statutory rape law does so.

Similarly: Can a 16-year-old date a 18-year-old in California? If there is sexual intercourse between the two, the 18-year-old can be charged with statutory rape.

Cases of legal violation where both are minors are tried in the state juvenile courts.

Most common legal defenses

This type of crime requires a specialized sex crime attorney to develop a successful defense. The criminal defense attorneys at Lluis Law are experts in these cases and guarantee the protection of the rights of their clients.

Having a lawyer who specializes in defending against California sex crimes is the key to safeguarding your rights and protecting your future. A good lawyer knows that there are certain legal defenses that can help you beat legal rape charges.

The three most common legal defenses in these cases are as follows:  

  • The defendant honestly and reasonably believed that the minor was over 18 years of age;
  • The sexual relationship was not really consummated.
  • The victim was not a minor.

In the first defense strategy, the most appropriate types of evidence to support the arguments are:

  • Testimonies of the alleged victim where he claims to be over 18 years old,
  • Photographs showing a greater physical appearance.
  • Name the place where you met the alleged victim (a bar for adults or a party).

In the second strategy, it must be shown that the alleged crime was a great lie fabricated by the accused to show off. For example, he said he had sex with a minor, even if it was not true, and was later charged with rape. 

Another defense strategy is to claim (if true) that the alleged victim and the alleged rapist were married. Since the marriage of minors is legal in California, as long as they have the consent of the parents.

When the accusing party cannot prove that he is a minor, the accusation vanishes on its own.

If you have been charged with the statutory rape crime in Los Angeles, our criminal defense attorneys are ready to defend you. Contact our firm and we will help you understand the law and plan a possible legal defense.

How long do you have to report statutory rape in California?

Law AB1619, which came into effect on January 1, 2019, extended the term to report a statutory rape to 10 years. The extension of the period to file a complaint for sexual assault was influenced by the “Me Too” movement . 

After 10 years the statutory rape prescribes. However, a lawsuit filed years later for statutory violation will lose legal force. 

Can a 22 year old date a 17 year old in California?

If you can but you shouldn’t, at the risk of being accused by your parents or by your partner of statutory rape. Although in reality between the couple there is a sentimental bond. 

The law prohibits only sexual relations with minors by persons over 18 years of age. In a case like these, the accused is liable to be convicted of statutory rape as a serious crime. 

Are sexual relations with minors legal if the parents give their consent?

No. Legally, neither parents nor minors can give their consent to have sexual relations. Unless they are legally married, of course. Another thing is that parents allow a minor child to marry a person over the age of 18.

Sex offender registry

Persons prosecuted for statutory rape in California are not registered as sex offenders. This is established in Penal Code 261.5. But those convicted of the related crimes listed below are registered. 

Related crimes 

The following crimes are related to rape because they contain common elements:  

  • Lewd acts with a child – PC 288 (a)Sexually touching a boy 14 years old or younger than 15. 
  • Oral copulation on a minor – PC 288 (a) and (b). Placing the genitals in the child’s mouth with or without consent.  
  • Indecent exposure – PC 314. Showing someone else’s genitals for sexual reasons or to offend them.
  • Sexual assault – PC 243.4. Touching another person’s intimate part for sexual gratification, excitement, or abuse.
  • Assault with attempted rape – PC 220. There must be no physical contact with the victim during the assault. 
  • Intent of rape – PC 663 / 261. It constitutes a violation even if there has not been a violation, only the intention counts. 
  • Dating rape / rape – Section PC 261 (a). Non-consensual sexual act that uses threats, force or fraud or due to the victim’s unconsciousness. Dating rape occurs when a person is raped during dating after being given certain drugs.

Civil rape lawsuits in California 

Victims of statutory rape have the right to file a civil claim for damages. This does not require that the accused has been previously convicted in a criminal trial.

It is enough to present sufficient evidence for the lawsuit to proceed. During a trial if 75% of the jury believes that the defendant is likely to have acted wrongly, they will be punished. Even in cases where the defendant is later found “not guilty”

The recoverable compensatory damages in a statutory rape claim are:  

  • Medical expenses.
  • Psychological therapies.
  • Lost wages. 
  • Loss of ability to generate profit. 
  • Pain and suffering. 

If you want to know more about this topic, please contact us now. 

Why you should hire the best Los Angeles sex crime attorneys  

Now you know a lot about California statutory rape law.

Being accused of the crime of rape of a minor is something very serious. Failure to hire an experienced attorney with a visible record of California win cases is risky. For more than four decades, Lluis Law’s attorneys have defended people accused of this crime.

Come with us and during a free consultation we can explain what are the legal options available. Remember that a rape charge in California does not mean a conviction. Before we can prove her innocence if we take the case early. Having an innocent man convicted is not an option for us.