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Statutory Rape: It’s Your Duty to Be Informed

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In California, an individual can willfully and legally engage in sexual contact at 18, known as the age of consent. An adult that engages in sexual activity with someone who has not reached this age can be charged with statutory rape.

A common claim among many in this predicament is that they did not know the actual age of the child. But according to the law, a lack of information is not a viable claim. If you've been charged with statutory rape, there are several things you must understand. 
 
Duty to Be Informed

Rape is often mischaracterized. People hear the term and think about a violent, forceful, non-consensual exchange. But rape can also be non-violent and consensual when a minor is involved. The term rape is justified in this instance because the state of California believes that persons under the age of 18 are not mentally prepared to consent to and understand the nature of the activity in which they are engaging in.

Adults are responsible to know the age of any person with which they sexually interact. A claim that you failed to ask their age is not enough. Your failure to act responsibly and verify the age of the other party could very well lead to your conviction, and the consequences of this judgment could include fines, probation, and/or years behind bars.

California Connection

California aggressively investigates, charges, and convicts individuals accused of statutory rape. In addition to an eagerness to protect children from sexual exploitation, the state also has a unique structure as it pertains to statutory rape.

If you're no more than three years older than the victim, this is an automatic misdemeanor charge. If you're over the age of 21 and the victim is 16 or younger, you will be charged with a felony rape charge.

Several states have adapted Romeo and Juliet exemptions aimed at waiving or preventing charges when the victim and the accused are close in age, such as 18 and 16. The state of California exercises this exemption, but not entirely. A statutory rape charge will still be pursued,  but at best, a charge may be reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor.

Plausible Defenses

Each person charged with statutory rape isn't guilty, but a plausible defense is critical for those individuals that fall into this category. Here are some possibilities.

No Sexual Contact

A relationship does not equal sex. If you and the minor dated, texted, talked on the phone, and engaged in other relationship-like behavior but were not sexually involved, you can argue that the claim is false since there was no sexual contact.

This is sometimes a viable defense when parents bring charges against an individual with whom they assume their child has engaged sexually. However, you need to be able to prove this claim.
   
Reason to Believe

Teenagers often lie, and there is no age limit on this unsavory behavior. When a minor lies to an adult and provides the individual with a valid reason to believe they are of age, this is a possible defense. For example, the minor showed proof of their age, such as a falsified identification or the accused met the minor at an adult-only establishment, such as a nightclub.

In these instances, it's arguable that the accused did their due diligence to verify the age of the other party, but the other party lied.

A charge of statutory rape is severe. Attorney representation is critical to protect your rights and work towards the best possible outcome. Ralph Torres Attorney At Law is standing by and waiting to fight for justice on your behalf.