Statutory rape is a serious crime and can permanently land you on the list of registered sex offenders. This is why it is so important to have an experienced sex crime defense attorney on your side to advocate your case. Here’s what you need to know about statutory rape in the state of California.
What Constitutes Statutory Rape
Statutory rape is unique in its class. What makes statutory rape different from other rape charges is that it is entirely possible for the sex to have been consensual. Whereas traditional rape charges typically refer to intercourse that was non-consensual, statutory rape charges focus solely on the age of the victim, not whether they agreed to participate.
In California, 18 is the age of consent. Basically, this is the age at which young people are considered to be adults, meaning that they are capable of making decisions in a mature manner. Those under the age of 18 may not yet have achieved the emotional and psychological development to make choices regarding sex.
Although the age of consent is 18 in California and many other jurisdictions, this is not always the case. Some states and localities set the age of consent as low as 16. If you live outside California, be sure to check the specific laws in your area to avoid getting in trouble with the law simply because you didn’t know the necessary regulations.
Statutory rape occurs when someone over the age of 18 engages in sexual intercourse with a minor, meaning someone under 18 years old. It does not matter if the sex was consensual or if the two had been in a committed relationship for many years. If one partner is under 18, intercourse qualifies as statutory rape.
Statutory Rape Charges
Depending on the prosecuting attorney’s direction and the specifics of the case, statutory rape can be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony. To qualify as a misdemeanor, the defendant can be no more than three years older than the victim. This is often the case with high school sweethearts having intercourse for the first time when one of them has reached the age of 18 but the other hasn’t yet.
If the defendant is more than three years older than the victim, statutory rape will automatically be charged as a felony. It can also be deemed a felony if the victim is 16 or younger, even if the defendant is less than three years older. If there is a chance that you might be charged with felony statutory rape, you’ll undoubtedly need a rape defense attorney acting on your behalf.
Penalties for Statutory Rape
If convicted of statutory rape, you may have to pay a fine, spend time on probation or even go to jail. For misdemeanor statutory rape, the maximum punishment is 1 year in jail and fines up to $1,000. For felony charges, you could go to prison for up to 4 years and pay up to $10,000 in fines.
Your sentence could include the maximum punishment in all areas or a lesser combination of some components. The end results in your case will depend on a variety of factors, including the evidence in your defense. This is why it is so important to obtain the services of a skilled sex crime defense attorney to handle your case in court.
Defending Against Statutory Rape Charges
As unfortunate as it is, statutory rape charges are often brought against those who are innocent, merely out of anger or spite. It is also possible to unknowingly commit statutory rape, like if you had reason to believe that the other party was over the age of consent. Your rape defense lawyer will work with you to work out the details of your defense before going to court.
In order to achieve a conviction, the prosecuting attorney must prove three things:
- That the defendant had sexual intercourse with the victim
- That the victim was under the age of 18 at the time of the incident
- That the two were not legally married at the time of the incident
If any of the above conditions are not met, the prosecutor will not be able to obtain a guilty verdict. In working with your attorney to plan your defense, trying to eliminate any of these conditions is often a good place to start. For example, you could prove that the two of you did not actually have intercourse, thus getting your case dismissed.
It is also possible that you had every reason to believe the victim was over the age of 18. They may have shown you an ID that you did not realize was fake, or you may have met them at a venue that was solely for adults, with minors not allowed inside. Your sex offender attorney can argue that you should not be convicted of a crime when the other party misrepresented themselves to you.
Depending on the particulars of your case, your sex crime defense attorney will likely have other strategies to bolster your defense as well. In cases of statutory rape, you really cannot afford not to have a dedicated rape defense attorney on your side. It could make the difference between winning and losing your case. Check for the best federal defense attorney.
Protect Yourself with LibertyBell Law Group
At LibertyBell Law Group, our team of sex crime defense attorneys can assist you with your statutory rape case in California. When you work with us, you’ll always get the respect and attention you deserve as we work on your case together. We give each case personalized attention and a tailored approach, so you can rest assured you are getting the best possible defense.
To provide you with more information about how we can help you, we’ll need to discuss your case with you in greater detail. We would be happy to schedule you an appointment for a free consultation, so get in touch with us today to learn more and get the process started. Read more about sex offense lawyer.