The age of consent varies from state to state, but in California, anyone under the age of 18 is perceived as incapable of giving informed consent to sexual relations. This means that anyone who has sexual relations with a minor, regardless of their age, can be charged with statutory rape even if the sex was voluntary.

Since teens are frequently sexually active in this day and age, statutory rape violations are commonplace in California. If you or someone you care about has been charged or is being investigated for statutory rape, it is vital that you get an experienced sex crimes attorney to fight for your side. At Aron Law Firm, we provide the thoughtful and intelligent representation you need to defend your case effectively.

California Law Regarding Sex With a Minor

Under California Penal Code 261.5, any person can be convicted of statutory rape if they engage in unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor who is:

  • Not more than three years older or three years younger than the perpetrator is guilty of a misdemeanor
  • More than three years younger than the perpetrator is guilty of either a misdemeanor or a felony

The law also states that any person who is 21 years or older who engages in sexual intercourse with a minor under the age of 16 is guilty of either a misdemeanor or a felony.

In September 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a law granting judges a say on whether someone should be registered as a sex offender if they had oral or anal sexual relations with a minor.

Prior to 2020, California statutory rape law permitted judges to decide if a man should be registered as a sex offender if they had voluntary vaginal intercourse with a 14 to 17-year-old girl, but only if he was no more than ten years older than her. By amending the law to include oral and anal sex, LGBTQ young people will receive the same treatment heterosexual minors have been given for decades.

Penalties for Statutory Rape in California

The sentencing for statutory rape, as with any sex crime in California, is severe. People facing statutory rape charges will face punishments that can affect their reputation, freedom, and housing or employment opportunities.

Adults who engage in sexual intercourse with a minor in California face penalties such as:

  • Payment of fines up to $25,000
  • Up to four years of imprisonment
  • Probation
  • Life-long status as a convicted felon
  • Community service

You will also have to register as a sex offender on, where your name, address, and photograph will be visible to the public. You will also be banned from visiting or living near parks, schools, and other public areas, and your employment opportunities will be drastically limited.

Sex offenders are generally viewed negatively by other inmates in jail or prison. Because of this, time spent in jail or prison is potentially much more dangerous for those serving time for sex crimes than for other offenses.

Felony Statutory Rape Penalties

For felony statutory rape, the penalties can be as follows:

  • Probation, which may be informal or formal felony probation, with a possibility of up to 1 year in county jail
  • Imprisonment for up to sixteen months, two years, or three years, except in situations where the accused was 21 years or older, and the minor was under 16, leading to potential sentences of two, three, or four years
  • Fines up to $10,000

In certain situations, a judge may permit a “split sentence,” allowing part of the sentence to be served under house arrest or through a work release program.

Upon granting probation, it is common for judges to also issue a suspended sentence, meaning no jail time will be served if all conditions of probation are met. It is important to note that statutory rape does not count as a “strike offense” under California’s Three Strikes Law.

Even though classified as felony charges, a conviction under California penal code section 261.5 will permanently revoke your right to own firearms. Moreover, statutory rape could be considered a crime of moral turpitude depending on the minor’s age, posing a risk of deportation for non-citizens.

Misdemeanor Statutory Rape Penalties

If you face misdemeanor statutory rape charges under the conditions mentioned, the possible consequences can encompass:

  • Informal probation also referred to as misdemeanor or summary probation
  • A jail term of up to one year in a county facility
  • Fines reaching up to $1,000

Beyond criminal sanctions, individuals aged 18 and older convicted of statutory rape may also incur civil penalties, which are financial penalties separate from the criminal justice system’s punishments. 

The scale of these a civil penalty differs based on the age difference between the minor and the accused:

  • A fine of up to two thousand dollars if the alleged victim is less than two years younger than the accused
  • A fine of up to five thousand dollars if the alleged victim is two or more years younger
  • A fine of up to ten thousand dollars if the alleged victim is three or more years younger
  • A fine of up to twenty-five thousand dollars if the alleged victim was under 16 years of age and the defendant was over 21

To understand the civil penalty you may face, contact a criminal defense lawyer today.

Associated Statutory Rape Offenses

Lewd Acts With a Minor Charges (California Penal Code 288)

Committing lewd acts with a minor involves any inappropriate touching of a child under the age of 15 (or under 16 in specific scenarios) for sexual satisfaction, as outlined in California statutory rape laws, California Penal Code section 288.

This is distinct from California penal code section 261.5, which addresses statutory rape. Unlike statutory rape, offenses under California penal code 288, often referred to as child molestation, are classified as felonies and may result in up to 8 years in a state prison.

Furthermore, individuals convicted of lewd acts with a minor are mandated to register as sex offenders.

Rape (California Penal Code 261)

Defined under California Penal Code 261, rape involves engaging in sexual intercourse with another individual without their consent, which is obtained through threats, force, or deceit.

This stands in contrast to statutory rape, which does not consider the consent of the alleged victim due to their age. Rape is classified strictly as a felony and carries a sentence of up to 8 years in state prison.

It is recognized as a “strike” offense under California’s three-strikes law and typically necessitates lifetime registration under the state’s three-tier sex offender registration system.

Common Defenses for Statutory Rape Charges

In California, facing charges for statutory rape is a serious legal matter due to the stringent laws protecting minors. However, several effective defense strategies can be employed to challenge such accusations.

These defenses address the specific elements of statutory rape charges and can significantly impact the outcome of a case.

Below are some of the most common defenses used in statutory rape cases in California:

1. Mistake of Age

One of the most prevalent defenses in statutory rape cases is the defendant’s genuine and reasonable belief that the minor was of the age of consent, which is 18 years old in California.

This defense, known as “mistake of age,” hinges on the defendant’s perception of the victim’s age at the time of the alleged offense.

Evidence such as the minor’s appearance, behavior, and representations about their age, especially in environments where age is typically restricted, can support this defense.

However, it is important to note that this defense has limitations and may not be applicable in all statutory rape cases.

2. Lack of Evidence

Prosecutors are legally required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that statutory rape occurred. A defense strategy might focus on highlighting the lack of concrete evidence supporting the allegation.

This could involve questioning the reliability of testimonies, the absence of physical evidence, or inconsistencies in the prosecution’s narrative.

3. False Accusations

Unfortunately, false accusations of statutory rape can occur for various reasons, such as misunderstandings, personal vendettas, or manipulation by third parties.

In these cases, defense efforts would focus on uncovering the truth behind the allegations, exploring motives for lying, and presenting evidence that contradicts the accuser’s claims.

This might include witness statements, digital communication records, or alibi evidence proving the defendant’s innocence.

4. No Sexual Intercourse Occurred

Statutory rape charges require proof of sexual intercourse between the defendant and the minor. If the defense can demonstrate that no such interaction took place, the basis for the statutory rape charge collapses.

This defense might involve presenting evidence or witness testimony that disputes the occurrence of any sexual activity.

5. Consent Is Not a Defense, but Important in Contextual Considerations

While consent from a minor is not legally recognized as a defense to statutory rape due to age incapacity to give such consent under California statutory rape laws, the context in which the alleged relationship occurred might influence the prosecutorial discretion and sentencing.

This is more about understanding the entirety of the relationship’s dynamics for a more comprehensive legal strategy rather than a direct defense against the charge itself.

Navigating a statutory rape charge in California requires nuanced knowledge of the law and a strategic defense approach tailored to the specific circumstances of the case.

Working with a highly qualified criminal defense attorney is crucial to effectively employ these defenses and achieve the best possible outcome in a statutory rape case.

Legal Action by Victims

An alleged victim who contends they have incurred harm due to statutory rape can initiate a sexual assault lawsuit in California. It is important to note that a criminal conviction is not a prerequisite for being subject to a lawsuit in civil court.

In civil proceedings, the standard for establishing guilt is “preponderance of the evidence.” This means that if the majority of jurors (at least nine out of twelve) determine that it is more likely than not that the accused committed the act in question, they may be held financially responsible for damages. This can occur regardless of whether:

  • The accused was acquitted in a criminal trial
  • No criminal charges were ever brought against them

The types of damages that may be awarded in such cases include compensatory damages, which aim to cover expenses and losses related to:

  • Medical treatments
  • Psychological therapy
  • Lost wages due to inability to work
  • Diminished future earning potential
  • Emotional distress and suffering

What Can I Do if I Am Charged With Statutory Rape?

Being accused of statutory rape in California is a serious and stressful situation that can have profound implications on your life and future. However, there are several steps you can take to protect your legal rights and navigate the justice system as effectively as possible. Here is what you should consider doing if you find yourself facing statutory rape charges:

1. Remain Silent

Your right to remain silent is one of the most critical protections under the law. Anything you say can be used against you in court, so it is essential to exercise this right until you have legal representation. Politely decline to discuss any allegations with California law enforcement or investigators without your attorney present.

2. Secure Legal Representation

Hire a criminal defense attorney at Aron Law experienced in handling statutory rape and sex crimes cases. We know the complexities of the law, the defense strategies that may be available to you, and how to navigate the criminal justice system to protect your interests.

3. Understand the Charges

Work closely with your attorney to understand the specifics of the charges against you, including the potential penalties and how the law is applied in your jurisdiction. Understanding the charges against you will help you and your attorney develop a more effective defense strategy.

4. Gather Evidence

Begin compiling any evidence that may support your defense or contradict the prosecution’s case. This might include text messages, emails, witness statements, or any other documentation that can establish timelines, consent (if age-appropriate), or other relevant facts.

5. Consider Your Defense Options

Discuss with your attorney the potential defense strategies that could be used in your case. This might include proving a mistake of age, demonstrating lack of evidence, or showing that no crime occurred. Each case is unique, so your defense should be tailored to your specific situation.

6. Prepare for Court

Work with your criminal defense lawyer to prepare for court appearances. This includes understanding court procedures, what to expect during the trial, and how to present yourself in the best possible light. Your attorney can provide guidance on all aspects of court preparation.

7. Stay Compliant With Legal Requirements

You must comply with all legal requirements, such as court appearances, bail conditions, or restraining orders. Failing to comply with these requirements can complicate your case and lead to additional penalties.

8. Support System

Lean on your support system during this challenging time. Facing criminal charges can be stressful and isolating, so it is important to have the emotional and practical support of friends, family, or professional counselors.

Facing charges of statutory rape requires a proactive and informed approach to protect your rights and future. By understanding your legal options, working closely with a skilled defense attorney, and carefully preparing for each step of the legal process, you can navigate these charges with greater confidence and clarity.

Facing Statutory Rape Charges in California? Contact an Experienced Sex Crimes Attorney at Aron Law Firm

A statutory rape conviction is not something you want to risk having placed on your record for the rest of your life. If you have been charged with statutory rape in California, do not face these harsh penalties without having a legal advocate on your side. A Santa Barbara sex crimes attorney knowledgeable in California statutory rape law at Aron Law Firm can construct a resilient defense strategy for your statutory rape case.

Call (805) 618-1768 or complete our contact form to discuss your legal options with a California sex crimes lawyer today. We are available to take your call night or day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.