The age of consent is the legally defined age at which a person is considered mature enough to consent to sexual activity.
This age varies across jurisdictions, and individuals below the age of consent are considered incapable of giving informed consent to engage in sexual activities. In this guide, we will discuss the age of consent in California, relevant laws, and potential legal consequences of engaging in sexual activities with a minor.
What is the Age of Consent In California?
In California, the age of consent is 18 years old. This means that engaging in sexual activity with an individual under the age of 18 is generally considered illegal, regardless of the age difference between the parties involved. It is important to note that the age of consent in California applies to both heterosexual and homosexual relationships.
Does California Have a ‘Romeo and Juliet’ Law?
Some states have what is called a “Romeo and Juliet” law, which protects individuals from statutory rape charges if they are close in age and both parties are below the age of consent. However, California does not have a Romeo and Juliet law.
In California, if one party is under the age of 18 at the time of the incident and the other party is over the age of 18, engaging in sexual activity can lead to criminal charges, even if the age difference is minimal.
Is It Legal to Date a Minor In California?
While it is not illegal to date a minor in California, engaging in sexual activity with someone under the age of 18 can result in criminal charges. It is crucial to understand that even if the relationship is consensual, the age of consent laws still apply.
If you are over the age of 18 and dating someone under the age of 18, it is advisable to refrain from any sexual activity until the younger party reaches the age of consent.
Are There Any Cases In Which It’s Legal to Have Intercourse With a Minor in California?
In some cases, California law does provide certain exceptions. For example, if a couple is legally married and one spouse is under the age of 18, sexual intercourse between the couple is legal. However, this exception is narrow and does not apply to unmarried couples or couples in which one partner is significantly older than the other.
What Is Statutory Rape?
Statutory rape is a term used to describe non-forcible sexual activity with an individual who is below the age of consent. In California, statutory rape is covered under Penal Code § 261.5 PC, which makes it illegal to engage in sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 18.
The penalties for statutory rape depend on the age difference between the parties involved:
- If the defendant is less than three years older than the minor, the offense is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
- If the defendant is three or more years older than the minor, the offense is a “wobbler,” meaning it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. A misdemeanor conviction can result in up to one year in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000, while a felony conviction can result in up to three years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
- If the defendant is 21 years or older and the minor is under 16 years of age, the offense is a felony, punishable by up to four years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Need Legal Help?
If you or someone you know is facing charges related to the age of consent or statutory rape in California, it is crucial to seek legal assistance immediately. With over 30 years of experience in criminal defense, Attorney Robert M. Helfend is rated by SuperLawyers and is a member of the National Trial Lawyers Top 100. Call us at 800-834-6434 for a free case review.