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Statutory rape is any unlawful sexual intercourse committed with a minor. A minor is a person who is under the age of 18. Statutory rape is penalized under the California Penal Code section 261.5.

What if the minor gives consent?

The law calls sexual intercourse with a minor “statutory rape” because the law declares that minors under the age of 18 are incapable of giving consent to any sexual intercourse.

Unlike ordinary rape which must be committed with force, intimidation, threat, violence, bodily injury duress or fraud, in statutory rape, even if these circumstances are not present, it is enough that the victim is under the age of 18 for there to be rape.

In ordinary rape, the victim’s consent was vitiated or lacking. In statutory rape, even if it was the minor who initiated the sexual intercourse, the law still makes the sexual intercourse an act of rape.

What if the perpetrator did not know that the victim was a minor?

This is a weak defense especially when the minor is very young. This may be a viable defense if the victim was a few months short of 18. It may also be a viable defense when the victim made a mistake as to his or her age such as when the victim does not have a birth certificate and had no way of knowing what his or her exact age was.

It may also be a viable defense when the minor committed an act of fraud or misrepresentation of her age, as when he or she presented a falsified ID.

It may also be a viable defense when the victim and the perpetrator are married to each other. There are states where the marriageable age is below 18 provided the marriage was made with the consent of the parents.

Does the victim always need to be female in statutory rape?

In the case of Michael M v. Superior Court of Sonoma County decided by the Supreme Court of California in 1979, the court ruled that in the crime of statutory rape, the victim must be a minor female and the perpetrator is a male.

The court admitted that while Section 261.5 discriminates on the basis of sex because only females can be victims, the court explained that it is an immutable fact that only females can become pregnant. This law is based on the public policy of preventing teenage pregnancies. This is a demonstrable state interest which justifies the discrimination.

Pregnancies among unwed teenage girls is a contemporary human problem. Teenage pregnancies pose significant health risks of death, illness, or injury to both the mother and the baby. Lastly, female teenagers who become mothers at 17 or younger never finish high school. This dooms them to a life of missed employment an educational opportunities and poverty.

This case was brought up to the Supreme Court of the United States and the ruling of the Superior Court of Sonoma County was upheld.

In 2017, the Supreme Court of the United States strengthened statutory rape laws in their decision in the case of Esquivel-Quintana v Sessions, Attorney General. It declared that the age of consent to sexual intercourse is 18 in the United States.

How are statutory offenses penalized?

Statutory rape may be penalized as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the age of the victim (the younger the victim, the graver the penalty). It also depends on the difference in age between the victim and the perpetrator. The greater the age gap between the perpetrator and the victim, the more severe the penalties.

Penalties include prison or jail sentences, probation, fines, treatment and counselling as well as registration as a sexual offender.

What are Rome and Juliet laws? Does California have a Romeo and Juliet law?

Romeo and Juliet laws are laws that treat differently acts of consensual sexual intercourse when it is committed by teenagers. California has no Romeo and Juliet laws. The age of consent to sexual intercourse is still 18 and when teenagers engage in sexual intercourse, they may still be charged with statutory rape.

There is a slightly lower penalty for when the victim’s and the perpetrator’s ages are less than three years apart and no force or violence is used. Under Section 261.5 of the California Penal Code, this is penalized as a misdemeanor. However, it will still be charged as statutory rape. The teenager convicted of statutory rape will need to register as a sexual offender and be liable to pay civil penalties.

Are you facing statutory rape charges? This is a serious sex crime charge that requires legal assistance and legal representation. Call us today for an evaluation and consultation. The experienced sex crimes attorneys at Ramiro J. Lluis Law Office are ready and willing to assist you.