Definition of Statutory Rape
Unlawful Sexual Intercourse with a Person Under 18
Statutory rape—which is also referred to as "sex with a minor"
or "unlawful sexual intercourse"—is defined as the act
of engaging in sexual intercourse with a person who is younger the statutory
age of consent. In the state of California, any person under the age of 18 cannot legally
consent to engage in sexual acts. This means that, regardless of whether
or not the sex was consensual, you could be charged with statutory rape
if you engage in sexual intercourse with a minor as an individual over
the age of 18.
In the state of California, the crime of
statutory rape is prosecuted under Penal Code § 261.5. In the context of this crime,
sexual intercourse is defined as any penetration of the vagina or genitalia
by the penis, no matter how slight. Consent by the victim is not relevant
in cases of statutory rape—since a minor cannot consent to sex—and
is, therefore, not a viable defense to this crime. In many cases, the
perpetrator could still be convicted even if they mistakenly believed
that the minor was an adult.
How Statutory Rape Is Punished in California
Statutory rape cases are unique in the sense that both the victim and perpetrator's
age will be taken into consideration when determining the severity of
the resulting criminal charges. This crime is a "wobbler" in
California, which means that it could be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or
felony. For example, if the age difference between the victim and the
defendant is no more than three years, the crime will likely be treated
as a misdemeanor—which is still punishable by up to one year in jail.
If the perpetrator is more than three years older than the victim, the
state could choose to prosecute the case as either a misdemeanor or felony
offense; however, if the defendant is at least 21 years old and the victim
is younger than 16, it is likely that the case will be tried as a felony—although
it is still possible that misdemeanor sentencing would apply. If an individual
is convicted of felony statutory rape in California, they could expect
to be sentenced to two, three or four years in state prison.
Is sex offender registration required for this crime?
Under California Penal Code § 261.5, anyone who is convicted of statutory
rape in the state is NOT required to register as a sex offender. However,
if the defendant is convicted of engaging in oral or anal sex with a minor,
in violation of Penal Code Sections 288a or 286, they may be subject to
sex offender registration. On another note, an individual could face an added one year in prison
if they are convicted of felony statutory rape and the crime was committed
for money or another consideration.