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What is the Legal "Age of Consent?"

The age of consent refers to the age at which a person can legally marry and/or engage in sexual acts. Children of any age can get married in California if they have the consent of both parents (exceptions apply), but must be 18 to marry without the consent of their parents. The age of consent is also the point at which a child can consent to engage in sexual intercourse without the act being considered statutory rape. The age of consent with regard to sexual relations in California is 18 (California Penal Code 261.5).

Statutory Rape Laws in California

Age of consent laws essentially prohibit a minor from engaging in sexual acts consensually, even if they are willing participants. Until an individual reaches the age of 18 in California, they are not legally considered capable of providing their own consent. If an adult engages in sexual acts with a minor, they could be charged with statutory rape—which is a criminal offense that carries stiff legal penalties. However, the severity of the charges will depend on the age of the victim and the perpetrator.

If the perpetrator is no more than three years older than the victim, they will be charged with a misdemeanor. If the perpetrator is more than three years older than the victim, they could be charged with a misdemeanor or felony. If the perpetrator is 21 or older, and the victim is under the age of 16, they could face enhanced sentencing. Misdemeanor penalties may include up to one year in jail and $1,000 in fines. Felony penalties may include up to four years in prison and $10,000 in fines.

Call Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners to Learn More

The penalties for violating California's age of consent laws are fairly stiff, but are consistent with the majority of other states. If you or someone you know is being investigated or charged with violating California's age of consent law, contact the Los Angeles criminal lawyers at Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners to discuss your case and learn about the legal options available to you. Your initial consultation is free!