This article was updated: Feb. 12th, 2023
The welfare and best interests of children is a top priority of California’s criminal justice system. The law regarding statutory rape is a good example. Except for married couples, no one who is 18 years old or older may have sexual intercourse with anyone who is under 18.
But what if a victim of statutory rape turns 18 while a statutory rape investigation or trial is pending? What if the victim doesn’t report the crime until he or she is 19 or 20. Can a Long Beach sex crimes law firm help someone who is charged with statutory rape if the victim is no longer a minor?
Statutory rape may be charged either as a felony or as a misdemeanor. It’s up to the discretion of the prosecutor. The age gap between the victim and the defendant is one of the main elements that determine how the charge is filed.
WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR A STATUTORY RAPE CONVICTION?
If a defendant is 21 or above and the victim is 16 or under, a felony charge is likely, and a conviction in such a case is punishable by up to four years in a California prison and a $10,000 fine.
A misdemeanor statutory rape conviction is punishable with a sentence of 364 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Any type of sexual relations with anyone below the age of 13 may be prosecuted in California as a first-degree felony.
The age of the parties is critical in determining how charges are filed and how sentencing is imposed when there’s a conviction, so a prosecutor in a statutory rape case is required to prove how old the parties were when the alleged crime took place.
HOW WILL A SEX CRIMES LAWYER HELP?
You can actually be charged with statutory rape even if you are yourself a minor under the age of 18. California prosecutors generally do not prosecute teens for having sex with other teens, but that doesn’t mean that it never happens. Minors are tried in the California juvenile court system.
If you are charged with statutory rape in southern California, you must be advised and represented by a lawyer who routinely and effectively represents defendants charged with sex crimes. You must contact an experienced Long Beach criminal defense attorney immediately.
If you are arrested for statutory rape, exercise your right to remain silent. Do not try to explain your “side” of the story to the police. Let your attorney do the talking on your behalf.
HOW DOES AGE PLAY A ROLE IN STATUTORY RAPE LAWS?
California’s statute of limitations for statutory rape depends on the severity of the criminal behavior and the age disparity between the defendant and the alleged victim:
1. If the parties are less than three years apart in age, the defendant will be charged with a misdemeanor, and the statute of limitations is one year.
2. If the parties are more than three years apart in age, the defendant may be charged with either a felony or a misdemeanor, and the statute of limitations is three years.
3. If three years pass, it does not always mean that no charges will be filed. California’s DNA Exception rule allows prosecution for statutory rape within one year of determining the suspect’s identity through DNA testing or within ten years of the alleged crime.
HOW DOES THE DNA EXCEPTION RULE WORK?
To charge someone with statutory rape under California’s DNA Exception rule:
1. The alleged crime had to take place after January 1, 2001.
2. The DNA was collected and analyzed within two years of the alleged crime.
So to answer the question we began with – “Can you still be charged with statutory rape after the victim turns 18?” – the answer is yes, provided that the statute of limitations has not expired.
WHAT DEFENSE STRATEGIES ARE USED IN STATUTORY RAPE CASES?
If you are charged with statutory rape in southern California, how will an experienced Long Beach criminal defense attorney defend you against the charge? In most statutory rape cases that go to trial, an attorney will present one of these three defenses on a client’s behalf.
1. The defendant genuinely believed that the victim was at least 18 years old: The success of this defense usually depends entirely on the defendant’s credibility and whether or not a jury believes the defendant’s claim.
2. The alleged victim was already 18 years old: Your lawyer can investigate to learn the true age of the victim and when the alleged offense actually occurred. If the victim was 18 at the time of the alleged incident, you cannot be convicted of statutory rape.
3. No intercourse took place, and the charge is false: Kissing, fondling, or even oral sex with an alleged victim is not sufficient to convict anyone of statutory rape (although other charges may be filed).
WHAT ABOUT FALSE CHARGES? WHAT IF THE VICTIM CONSENTED?
Sometimes a statutory rape charge is brought by a prosecutor based on non-credible hearsay or the insistence of a minor’s parents. In these cases, your attorney will work to discredit the state’s witnesses and explain to the jurors why the charges against you are false.
The victim’s consent is not a defense to a statutory rape charge. Under California law, a minor under 18 years of age is not capable of giving valid consent to sexual intercourse.
CAN YOU FACE CIVIL PENALTIES FOR STATUTORY RAPE?
Along with criminal penalties, a defendant charged with statutory rape in California may also face civil penalties. California has established civil fines as civil penalties when an adult commits statutory rape.
The fine is:
1. $2,000 if the victim is less than two years younger than the offender
2. $5,000 if the victim is at least two years younger than the offender
3. $10,000 if the victim is at least three years younger than the offender
4. $25,000 if the victim was under 16 and the defendant was 21 or older
WHAT IS YOUR RIGHT AS A CRIMINAL DEFENDANT?
Winning an acquittal on a criminal statutory rape charge or having the charge dismissed will require the aggressive help of an experienced criminal defense attorney.
If you’ve been charged with statutory rape, or if you believe that you are under suspicion for statutory rape, you must contact an experienced California defense lawyer at once. That is your right. Nothing is more important than your future and your freedom.