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What is the Age of Consent in California?

What is the Age of Consent in California?

When it comes to sex crimes, not knowing the age of consent won’t serve as a strong defense. Make sure you know California laws for inappropriate sexual contact with a minor.

Contact our California Criminal Defense Lawyers!

California Consenting Age

Age of consent refers to the age that an individual must be in order to legally consent to sexual activity. The lowest age of consent in some states is 16 years old. However, California is one of 11 states where the age of consent is 18 years old.

It is illegal for individuals who are over 18 years old to engage in sexual behavior with anyone under the age of consent. However, California does have a ‘Romeo and Juliet’ exemption. This means that someone over 18 and a minor can have consensual sex if they are 3 years apart in age or less. For example, a 19 year old and 17 year old can engage in consensual sex, and the 19 year old would likely not face statutory rape charges.

For most other circumstances, though, engaging in sexual intercourse with someone who is under the age of consent can lead to serious criminal consequences.

Statutory Rape

Statutory rape is the most common charge given for having sex with a minor. Even if the intercourse was not violent and forceful in nature, the age difference and the participant being a minor can result in rape charges.

Statutory rape is a wobbler offense in California. This means that depending on the circumstances of the offense, it may be a misdemeanor or a felony charge.

Typically, statutory rape becomes a felony when the defendant is over 21 and the victim is under 16 years old.

A felony statutory rape charge can result in:

  • Up to four years incarcerated
  • Up to $25,000 in fines
  • Five years of probation

Not only are these criminal penalties serious, but the effects of a statutory rape conviction can affect numerous other aspects of your life - even after you have served your time.

Romeo and Juliet Law: What Is It?

Romeo and Juliet laws provide exceptions or defenses to statutory rape charges in those states. 

When an accused person and a victim are close in age, Romeo and Juliet's laws usually apply. As a result, these laws are often referred to as "close-in-age exceptions."

If your state has Romeo and Juliet laws, the law may provide several protections for the defendant. Among these protections are: 

  • Eliminating the statutory rape charges,
  • Getting rid of mandatory sex offender registration,
  • Making the charge a misdemeanor offense instead of a felony 
  • Penalizing statutory rapes less harshly, and
  • Allowing the defendant to seek an expungement. 

The effect of a Romeo and Juliet law varies from state to state. 

What is the Romeo and Juliet Law in California?

There is no Romeo and Juliet law in California, as it is not an exception to the law; rather, it is the law that applies in every situation. 

Defendants who wish to raise Romeo and Juliet exceptions need to meet specific requirements in states that have Romeo and Juliet laws.

Specifically, each state's Romeo and Juliet law will describe the conditions that must be met in order for it to apply. 

Romeo and Juliet law applies in Florida, for example, only in the following circumstances: 

  • The victim was between 14 and 17 years old; 
  • The defendant was no more than four years older than the victim;
  • Sexual activity was willingly undertaken by the victim; and
  • There are no prior sex-offense convictions on the defendant's record. 
  • The defendant can petition to be removed from the Florida sex-offender registry if the above criteria are met. 

Social Consequences of a Sex Crime Conviction

A statutory rape conviction on your record can haunt you.
Additional difficulties you may face as a result of your conviction include:

  • Being a registered sex offender
  • Loss of your job
  • Inability to work in certain career fields
  • Damage to your social relationships
  • Restitution payments in addition to fines

Rancho Cucamonga Sex Crime Defense

It is crucial that you are aware of California laws for underage sex crimes. If you find yourself facing charges for statutory rape, it is crucial that you contact a legal defense team immediately. Fighting a sex crime charge can be an uphill battle, but our team at Newman & Allen has the experience needed to defend you.

Contact the professionals at Newman & Allen today to set up a consultation with our Rancho Cucamonga criminal defense attorneys and learn more about the laws regarding age of consent in California.