Statutory Rape (Penal Code 261.5 PC)

What is California Penal Code 261.5 PC Statutory Rape?

California makes it a crime to have sexual intercourse with somebody who is under the age of 18 years old. This is called “statutory rape”. During your criminal case, it may also be referred to as “unlawful sex with a minor” or “unlawful sexual intercourse.” The prohibition of statutory rape is codified in California’s law books in Penal Code 261.5 PC.

You can commit California Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape even if the minor gave consent to the sexual intercourse. This is the case even if the person who was under the age of 18 was the one who instigated the sexual intercourse.

In today’s modern world, young people are more sexually active than ever. As a result, normally law-abiding citizens are finding themselves in hot water more and more with the criminal justice system.

If you find yourself charged with California Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape, please read below. We will discuss the legal definition of California Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape and its associated nuances. Furthermore, we will go over the potential punishments and legal defenses available to combat a California Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape charge. As Sex Crimes Attorneys, we believe all our clients should be educated on the laws relevant to their case. It not only helps our clients understand the important issues, but it also helps us better communicate with you so we can build the best possible legal defense.

What is the legal definition of California Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape?

Before you can be convicted of a sex crime in the state of California, the prosecutor must prove all of the elements of the particular sex crime you are charged with. An element is simply a fact related to the particular sex crime. Note that this rule only applies to decisions of guilty found in a California court trial, where a judge or jury decides the final verdict. You can be convicted of a crime, even without going through a trial, if you choose to take a plea bargain. In this case, the elements are only relevant to the negotiating, but don’t actually have to be proven in a trial.

Also, each element of the sex crime needs to be proven to certain level of certainty. In California criminal sex crime cases, the standard used is called “beyond a reasonable doubt”. While the burden to do this is on the prosecutor, your Sex Crimes Attorney will force the prosecutor and police to prove their case and provide evidence in your favor that highlights your innocence and to mitigate any punishments.

In regards to California Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape, there are three elements that must be proven by the prosecutor. These three elements are as follows:

  • 1) You had sexual intercourse with the alleged victim.
  • 2) You and the alleged victim were not married to each other when the sexual intercourse took place.
  • 3) At the time of the sexual intercourse, the alleged victim was a minor.

Let’s examine the individual nuances of each of the elements, so that you can get a better understanding of your rights and liabilities. We recommend you read the following section because it will give you insight on what may turn out to be the major issues in your sex crimes case. Most likely, some of the issues below will be hotly debated and negotiated between the prosecutor and your Sex Crimes Attorney throughout all the stages of your California Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape criminal prosecution.

Sexual Intercourse

 

The definition of sexual intercourse under California Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape differs from the mainstream definition. California law will deem sexual intercourse took place if there was any penetration. It does not matter if the penetration was minimal. Also, it is irrelevant whether or not one of the parties was brought to orgasm. Ejaculation does not play a role in California’s legal definition of sexual intercourse. Hence, to recap, as long as there was penetration, you may be subject to liability under California Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape.

Married to Alleged Victim

It is important to note here that you are only excused from California Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape liability if you were married to the minor at the time of the sexual intercourse.

California Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape liability will not be excused if you used to be married to the alleged victim. It is also not relevant if the alleged victim is married to someone else or used to be married.

To recap, the law only protects you from California Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape liability if you and the alleged victim were married at the time of the sexual intercourse.

Minor

For purposes of California Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape, a minor is defined as somebody under the age of 18. Age is determined by the birth date of the relevant parties; a person ages one year 1 minute after midnight on the day of their birth.

California Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape differs from other rape laws in that there is no requirement that the sexual intercourse be achieved by force. As stated above, California Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape does not even tackle the issue of consent as it doesn’t think it is a relevant question. In traditional rape laws, the issue of whether consent was given is the central question of the crime. The purpose of California Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape is to protect young people. The idea is that young people cannot inherently consent to sexual intercourse.

This means charges of California Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape can result out of a loving and positive relationship. This is because the age of the people involved in the sexual intercourse is the main issue in California Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape inquiries.

In fact, adults are the not the only ones who can be charged with California Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape. Minors are subject to liability, even if they were under the age of 18 themselves when the sexual intercourse happened. This is a tricky situation for prosecutors because the defendant is also considered a victim in these circumstances. For this reason, the State of California doesn’t pursue these type of cases often, but they could and have in the past.

The Potential Punishments for a California Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape Conviction

California Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape is considered a wobbler. This means that a prosecutor can charge you with this sex crime as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

This decision will be made on the basis of three factual circumstances. They are:

  • If you are a maximum of three years older than the alleged victim, then the California Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape will always be charged as a misdemeanor.
  • If you are at least three years older than the alleged victim, then you could be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony.
  • If the alleged victim is under the age of 16 and you are at least 21 years of age when the sexual intercourse occurred, then you could receive either a misdemeanor or a felony. The difference is in this situation the punishments are more severe than the situations described above.

In cases where you could be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony, the prosecutor will make the decision based on the specific circumstances of your case and your past criminal record.

A California Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape misdemeanor can result in any and all of the following punishments: up to 1 year in a county jail, a fine up to $1,000, and informal probation

A California Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape felony can result in any and all of the following punishments: up to $10,000 in fines, informal or formal probation, and prison time. Generally, you could be sentenced between 1.5 years to 3 years in state prison time. However, if you are older than 21 years of age and the alleged victim is younger than 16, the maximum potential prison sentence goes up to 4 years.

Sex Offender Registration

A conviction under California Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape does not carry a requirement to register as a sex offender under Penal Code 290.

However, California Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape is commonly charged with other sex crimes. If convicted of these crimes, you may be required to register as a sex offender. Depending on your particular situation, you may want to take a plea bargain to California Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape to avoid the registration requirement. This is because registering as a sex offender will carry a lifelong stigma that will affect your ability get jobs and housing for potentially the rest of your life.

What are the legal defenses to a charge of California Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape?

The penalties for a conviction under California Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape can be quite severe. Fortunately, there are a variety of legal defenses available to fight California Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape charges. Below, we discuss some of the more common legal defenses. However, it is important that you talk with a Sex Crimes Attorney to find out which legal defenses are available in your case. A Sex Crimes Attorney will review the specific circumstances of your situation and will design a legal strategy that will maximize the best possible outcome.

You did not know the alleged victim was a minor.

Not knowing that the alleged victim was a minor only works as a legal defense to California Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape if you had an honest and reasonable belief that they were not a minor at the time of the sexual intercourse. If this can be proven, then you cannot be convicted of California Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape.

The following are some examples of evidence that can boost this type of defense. The list is not exhaustive but will give you an idea of the type of issues that will become important in cases revolving around this defense.

  • The alleged victim’s statements that may have indicated her age.
  • The alleged victim’s clothing and how old they look.
  • How, when, and where you met the alleged victim. For example, if you met the alleged victim at a bar, then there is an argument to support your belief that they were over the age of 18. However, if you met them near a school, then this belief becomes harder to support.

Whether a belief is considered “reasonable” will be assessed according to an “objective” standard. The court will look at your belief, that the alleged victim was not a minor, through the eyes of a ordinary, prudent person. If the court believes that such a person could hold the same belief that you did, then your belief will be considered reasonable and you will have satisfied this requirement of this defense. To complete the defense, you must also show that you actually believed that the alleged victim was not a minor.

Example: Calvin is a community college student. One day, at the campus cafeteria, he meets a girl, Debbie, from his art class. Calvin starts talking to Debbie and they hit it off. At some point, Debbie mentions she has to catch the bus to get home or her mom will get mad if she is late. Not wanting the conversation to end, Calvin offers to drive her home. On the way home, Calvin kisses her; one thing leads to another and they have sexual intercourse in his car. The next day, Debbie’s mom discovers semen on Debbie’s underwear while doing the laundry. Calvin is charged with California Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape, because Debbie is 16 years old.

In this example, Calvin’s best bet at avoiding a California Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape conviction is with the honest and reasonable belief defense. It does not matter that Debbie consented to the sex. At 16 years of age, she is unable to give legal consent to sexual intercourse in California. The issue then turns to whether Calvin’s belief, that Debbie was not a minor, was honest and reasonable. The arguments go both ways. On one hand, Calvin could argue that he met her at a college campus, so he assumed she at least finished high school and was therefore over 18. On the other hand, Debbie mentioned she lived at home and her mom mad would get mad at her for being late. To this, Calvin could argue that many college students live at home. As you can tell, this case depends on the arguments made by the prosecutor and the Sex Crimes Attorney. It may even turn on how old Debbie looks, the way she dresses, and even the way she talks.

You are falsely accused of California Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape

It is not uncommon for an innocent person to be falsely charged with a sex crime, especially California Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape. Cases involving sex crimes usually arise out of situations with strong emotions. It is not surprising to see people angry or jealous with each other when sex and love are involved. Additionally, the alleged victim’s family may push such allegations if they do not support your relationship with their child.

In these cases, it is important that your criminal prosecution not rely on evidence only obtained by the prosecutor and the police. Prosecutors and police tend to have a biased perspective towards defendants, especially in sex crime cases, and will push a narrative that makes you look like a bad guy or predator. Your Sex Crimes Attorney can develop the evidentiary record in you favor by interviewing witnesses, obtaining physical evidence, and even obtaining the phone and text records of the alleged victim. By using a variety of substantive and procedural legal tools, your Sex Crimes Attorney can bring the truth to light.

Remember: Consent is Not a Defense

Unlike other rape sex crimes, consent is not a defense to California Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape. The rationale behind this is that the law considers people who are under the age of 18 years old not legally capable of consenting to sexual intercourse. Thus, even the fact that the minor wanted to participate in the sexual intercourse will not protect you from California Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape liability.

What Should You Do If You Are Charged With California Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape?

As with all other sex crimes, it is critical that you call a Sex Crimes Attorney immediately. Time is of the essence with California Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape criminal prosecutions. Physical evidence can disappear quickly. The memories of witnesses can fade and/or be tampered with. With someone on your side to develop the evidentiary record in your favor, the judge and the juries will rely mainly on the police reports and the perspective of the prosecutor.

Call one of our experienced Sex Crimes Attorneys today to get a free consultation. They will be happy to discuss with you the specific issues of your case and answer any questions you may have.

Speak with one our Sex Crimes Attorneys by calling 424-835-9799 .