Statutory rape happens when someone is having sex with a person under the age of 18. The perpetrator will be prosecuted and will be looking at a felony on their record, along with potentially having to register as a sex offender. The crime of statutory rape is defined under California Penal Code 261.5.
It starts to get tricky when two parties have sex and are both under the age of 18. This is a situation that causes problems for prosecutors, and a lot of times, they just don't prosecute those cases unless there is a considerable age gap.
Often, I see these statutory rape cases popping up after someone gets pregnant.
They have the child, and the hospitals remove the father they would put on the birth certificate. The hospital can see that the person is under 18, so they must contact the authorities.
The parents give them information about who impregnated the minor, and now the person is looking at a statutory rape charge.
Another situation I see is when parents find out that their underage children are having sex with someone over the age of 18, and they contact the authorities.
Will The State Of California Look At Any Exceptions To Statutory Rape Based On The Relationship Between Two Young People Close In Age?
The prosecutors ultimately decide whether or not to charge a statutory rape case. I have seen a lot of issues that would technically be statutory rape not filed because of the close ages of the two persons involved and because the sexual relationship is consensual.
Of course, the younger the victim is, and the larger the age gap is, the more likely the prosecutors will file a statutory rape case.
I do not see many cases filed where both parties are under 18 unless one party is taking advantage of the other party because there is a significant age gap between the two. Then, the case will be filed in juvenile court.
Does It Matter If The Young People Are Of The Same Gender?
For a statutory rape charge, there has to be some penetrative sex between the two parties. Even if a statutory rape case couldn't be filed, the prosecutors can charge you with other crimes related to people touching someone under the age of 18.
Suppose someone is taking advantage of or having some sexual contact with someone under 18. In that case, the prosecutors have the authority and the ability to charge them with a serious sexual offense, regardless of gender.
What Are Some Potential Defenses To Statutory Rape Charges?
When it comes to statutory rape, the primary defense is that one party believed that the other party was 18 years or older. Maybe it was a one-night stand, and the alleged victim looks like they're over 18 years old or even represented themselves as 18 or years or older.
I've had cases where the person even showed a fake I.D. to my client, and the prosecutor still filed charges. The task is whether you knew or reasonably should have known that the person you were engaging in sex with was under the age of 18. Often, that's going to be judged by the surrounding circumstances and common sense.
What Are The Potential Penalties Associated With A Statutory Rape Conviction?
You can get a punishment of probation and no jail time for a conviction of statutory rape, or you could be sent to prison or county jail. It depends on a whole host of different factors. Your attorney will negotiate with the prosecutors before entering a guilty or no contest plea. You're going to know before then precisely what your punishment is going to be.
There can be other specific terms and conditions, like doing a sex education course or community service. They can also make you register as a sex offender during the probationary period. The point of holding you responsible and accountable is to try to protect young people from individuals taking advantage of them when they're too young to consent.