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California Statutory Rape Lawyer Explains Laws on Unlawful Sex with a Minor (Penal Code 261.5 PC)

Do You Need a Statutory Rape Lawyer?

In California, it is unlawful to engage in sexual intercourse with a person who is under 18 years old. This is a very serious crime known as statutory rape. If you are convicted of statutory rape in this state, you face severe consequences, including prison time and expensive fines.

Our statutory rape lawyers at Wallin & Klarich have over 35 years of experience successfully defending clients charged with this serious offense. Call us today at (877) 466-5245 to receive expert legal advice about your case.

Be sure to read on to learn more about statutory rape laws in California so that you can be fully informed about the charges you are facing.

Why Hire Wallin & Klarich?

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The success of our criminal defense law firm has helped us achieve the highest of merits, including a 5 out of 5 AV rating on Lawyers.com, a 10 out of 10 rating on AVVO.com, and an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.

For more than 35 years, our statutory rape attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have been successfully defending people facing statutory rape charges. Here are just a few testimonials provided by some of our previous clients who wanted to share their stories:

“I wanted to express my enormous relief and gratitude to Wallin & Klarich. My son was arrested for statutory rape and domestic battery. The allegations were extremely serious. We were concerned that our son would end up in jail and also be branded a “sex offender” for the rest of his life. What made the case more difficult was that the police claimed that my son admitted to a sexual relationship with a minor.

We didn’t know where to turn. We retained the experienced law firm of Wallin & Klarich to help our son. We knew they would have their work cut out for them. Wallin & Klarich was able to determine that the prosecution might have difficulty proving certain elements of the crime. The prosecutor was insisting on a 90 day jail sentence and a guilty plea. This would have required our son to miss a semester of school and be exposed to what could happen to him in jail.

Wallin & Klarich, after a very tough battle, was able to convince the judge to dismiss the statutory rape charge. Our son plead guilty to the battery charge only. He was spared any jail time. He has to do an anger management program and eight hours of community work service and some “Cal Trans” time.

Our family lives out of state, and soon after our son was arrested, our lawyers arranged for our son to be permitted to return to his home. This case was going on for many months. However, throughout the process, whenever we would email or contact Wallin & Klarich, they would gladly speak to us and explain what was going on with the case. We felt from day one we were in good hands with Wallin & Klarich.

We would strongly recommend Wallin & Klarich if your family has a loved one facing criminal charges. Going through the criminal process can be a frightening experience. If you are lucky enough to find a law firm like Wallin & Klarich willing to fight for you, you are very fortunate.”

–Anonymous

“I was accused of having sex with a minor, and I was referred to the law firm of Wallin & Klarich, a firm I was told had tremendous experience defending people facing sex crime charges. I was given a Wallin & Klarich attorney who was familiar with my jurisdiction. The attorneys at Wallin & Klarich moved aggressively to present my case in the best light to the court and negotiate with the prosecutor handling my case. My Wallin & Klarich attorney filed eight evidentiary motions in order to put my case in the best possible position when it was to go in front of a jury. After a little more then an hour of deliberating, the jury came back with not guilty verdicts on all the counts against me. I walked out of the courtroom a free man and was able to go back to my family and my job. Were it not for the attorneys at Wallin & Klarich, my life would have been ruined. As a result, I enthusiastically recommend them for any serious sex crime or criminal matters.”

–J.M.

“I was devastated when police came to my house and arrested me on suspicion of statutory rape. I found the law offices of Wallin & Klarich on the internet and immediately made an appointment to meet with my attorney. My attorney listened to my side of the story and I was convinced I hired the right firm after meeting with him. When the case got to court, the district attorney’s offer was to plead guilty to a felony, serve one year in county jail and to register as a sex offender. My attorney was persistent in his negotiations with the DA and was able to convince them to drop my case to a misdemeanor with no jail time and no registration. I was overjoyed with the result and I want to sincerely thank Wallin & Klarich for all of their time and effort they put into my case.”

–E. B.

Call Wallin & Klarich Today

You can place your trust in Wallin & Klarich. Our knowledgeable California statutory rape lawyers are committed to defending your rights and your freedom. Call us today for immediate help on your case.

For more information on California statutory rape laws, read below or simply pick up the phone and speak to one of our skilled attorneys today.

Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free telephone consultation regarding your case.


What is Statutory Rape in California? (PC 261.5)

The crime of statutory rape is defined under California Penal Code Section 261.5. According to this law, you could face statutory rape charges if you engage in sexual intercourse with a minor who is not your spouse.

Statutory rape laws are straightforward. In order to convict you of statutory rape under PC 261.5, the prosecution must prove all of the following elements:

  • You had sexual intercourse with the victim,
  • You and the victim were not married at the time of the incident, AND
  • At the time of the intercourse, the victim was under the age of 18

If the prosecution can prove all of these elements, you could face serious penalties for statutory rape.

Statutory Rape and the Statute of Limitations

statute of limitations for statutory rape
There is a statute of limitations for statutory rape.

Before you know the penalties for statutory rape in California, you must first understand the statute of limitations for this crime. For most crimes in California, the prosecutor must file charges within a set period of time known as the “statute of limitations.” If charges are not filed within this time period, you cannot face charges for that crime unless certain exceptions are true in your case.

Statutes of limitations exist in great part because California lawmakers believe people should not be allowed to be charged with crimes many years after they allegedly occurred. Being charged with a crime many years later makes it difficult for you to defend yourself for many reasons, including:

  • Critical witnesses may be dead or not be able to be located
  • Physical evidence could deteriorate or be lost over time, and
  • You may have difficulty recalling where you were when the alleged crime occurred, making it challenging to use the alibi defense

The statute of limitations for statutory rape depends upon the seriousness of the alleged offense, particularly the age difference between you and the alleged victim.

  • PC 261.5(b) – If you are less than three years in age apart from the alleged victim at the time of the crime, statutory rape is considered a misdemeanor. The statute of limitations for misdemeanor statutory rape is one year.
  • PC 261.5(c) – If you are more than three years in age apart from the alleged victim at the time of the incident, it is a wobbler offense. Misdemeanors have a statute of limitations of one year, while felony statutory rape has statute of limitations of three years.

However, if three years has passed, it does not necessarily mean you will not face criminal charges. Under PC 803, the DNA Exception rule allows prosecutors to charge you with a crime in some cases if DNA evidence conclusively reveals you as the subject. In order to charge you with statutory rape under the DNA Exception rule, the following must be true:

  • The offense was committed after January 1, 2001, and
  • The DNA was collected and analyzed within two years of the offense

If DNA evidence reveals you as a suspect, prosecutors have one year to formally file charges.

Statutory Rape Punishment and Sentencing

Many people who call our law firm ask us if statutory rape is a felony or misdemeanor. This crime is what is considered a “wobbler” offense in California, which means you could be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony depending upon the circumstances of your case. Typically, the sentence you face for a statutory rape conviction depends upon your age and the age of the victim at the time the crime was committed.

Statutory rape is considered a misdemeanor if you are no more than three years older than the victim. Misdemeanor statutory rape is punishable by up to 364 days in county jail and a maximum fine of $1,000.

Statutory rape penalties
Statutory rape penalties can be severe.

If you are at least three years older than the victim and the victim is 16 or 17 years old, statutory rape can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. How you will be charged depends upon the facts of your individual case and your prior criminal history, if any.

A misdemeanor conviction carries up 364 days in jail and fines of up to $1,000, while a felony conviction under these circumstances is punishable by 16 months, 2 or 3 years in county jail and fines of up to $10,000.

If you are 21 years of age or older and the victim of statutory rape is under the age of 16, you face felony charges. Felony statutory rape under these circumstances carries a sentence of 2, 3 or 4 years in county jail and a maximum fine of $10,000.

A statutory rape conviction could also lead to additional consequences outside of the criminal justice system. Being convicted of having unlawful sex with a minor could lead to you facing civil penalties that could cost you a lot of money.

Statutory Rape and the Sex Offender Registry (PC 290)

Statutory rape is a sex crime. Therefore, many people ask our lawyers if they will be required to register as a sex offender if they are convicted of statutory rape.

The answer is complicated.

California Penal Code Section 290 lists many crimes that require mandatory sex offender registration as part of a sentence if convicted. Statutory rape is not one of those crimes. However, under PC 290.006, the court has the discretion to order you to register as a sex offender as part of your sentence if the court finds that you committed your offense “as a result of sexual compulsion or for the purposes of sexual gratification.”

Therefore, while a statutory rape conviction does not carry mandatory sex offender registration, a judge could order you to register based on the circumstances of your case.

How to Beat Statutory Rape Charges

In order to fight the statutory rape charges against you, you should contact an experienced rape defense lawyer immediately. Our skilled criminal defense attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have been successfully defending clients accused of statutory rape for more than 35 years.

Some of the valid legal defenses our lawyers have used to help clients beat statutory rape charges include:

  • The victim was not a minor – One of the key elements of the crime of statutory rape is that the victim is a minor. If the alleged victim was 18 years old or older, you should not be convicted of statutory rape.
  • You held a good faith belief that the alleged victim was 18 years of age or older – If you actually and reasonably believed that the alleged victim was 18 years old or older, your statutory rape lawyer may have a valid legal defense to the charges against you. The alleged victim’s physical appearance and any statements or other reasons that led you to believe she was 18 or over could be presented by your lawyer to attempt to show that you thought the alleged victim was an adult.
  • You did not engage in sexual intercourse with the victim – The crime of statutory rape requires some form of penetration of the vagina by the penis. If there was no penetration, you should not be convicted of this crime.
  • You were married to the victim – It is legal for minors to marry adults in California as long as the minor has parental or judicial consent. If you were married to the alleged victim at the time of the incident, you should not be convicted of statutory rape, even if it is true that the alleged victim was a minor.

Not all of these defenses will apply in your statutory rape case. You should speak to our experienced lawyers at Wallin & Klarich about your case in detail so that we can develop a valid legal defense strategy for you.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Statutory Rape

Due to their track record of successfully defending clients facing statutory rape charges, our lawyers are frequently asked questions regarding the crime. Here are some of the most common statutory rape questions our lawyers are asked along with the answers to them:

Can I be charged with statutory rape if the other person gave consent to sex?

The fact that the sex was non-consensual is not an element of the crime of statutory rape. According to California law, minors are unable to provide valid consent to a sexual act. Therefore, you could be charged with statutory rape in any situation where you have sex with a minor, regardless if you believe he or she consented to the act. However, you cannot be convicted of this crime if the alleged victim was your spouse at the time of the incident.

The alleged victim told me she was 18. Can I be convicted of this crime?

If you had a good faith belief that the alleged victim was 18 years of age or older, you may have a valid legal defense to statutory rape charges. In order to use this defense, the jury must find that a “reasonable” person in the same situation would have held the same belief.

Factors that the jury will consider when determining if you should have reasonably believed the alleged victim was a minor include:

  • The physical characteristics and appearance of the alleged victim
  • Any statements that the alleged victim made to you regarding her age, and
  • The circumstances of how and where you met the alleged victim (i.e. if you met the victim at a bar or through an 18-and-over dating service)

If a reasonable person in the same situation as you would have believed that the victim was 18 years of age or older, you should not be convicted of statutory rape.

Is it illegal for an 18 year old to date a minor?

There is no law that makes it illegal for someone 18 years old or older to date a minor. The crime of statutory rape requires the penetration of the vagina by the penis. You cannot be convicted of this crime if you dated a minor or engaged in holding hands or kissing a minor.

Does California have Romeo and Juliet Laws?

statutory rape
Statutory rape is a serious offense.

“Romeo and Juliet laws” refer to laws that protect teens and young adults from being subjected to criminal consequences for engaging in consensual sex with someone near their age. For example, some states have laws that prevent an 18-year-old from being prosecuted for having sex with a 17-year-old.

California is strict when it comes to statutory rape, but there are partial Romeo and Juliet laws in place within the state. These laws protect young adults who engage in sexual intercourse with minors up to three years apart in age from facing felony statutory rape charges, but these young adults could still face misdemeanor charges. Additionally, these laws do not apply to anyone who abuses a position of authority, such as teachers who engage in sexual acts with students.

What if the minor’s parents gave permission for me to have sex with him or her?

Minors cannot legally consent to sex in California and parents cannot legally provide consent to sexual activity on behalf of the minor. Parents can provide consent for a minor to marry an adult 18 years of age or older, but parental consent is not a valid defense to statutory rape charges.

It is important to note that the alleged victim and the alleged victim’s parents are not the ones who file statutory rape charges. Anyone – including witnesses, the minor’s parents and the alleged victim – can report statutory rape offenses. Once the crime has been reported, it is up to the district attorney’s office to decide whether to pursue charges.

How Can I Find a Skilled Statutory Rape Lawyer Near Me?

statutory rape lawyer
A statutory rape lawyer can help you today.

If you or someone you love has been accused of statutory rape, you are facing harsh consequences. You should not hesitate to contact a skilled statutory rape defense attorney. At Wallin & Klarich, our knowledgeable statutory rape lawyers have been successfully defending clients facing serious sex crime charges for more than 35 years. We’ve successfully helped thousands of clients in their time of legal need, and we can help you now.

With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, West Covina, Torrance, Los Angeles and San Diego, our experienced statutory rape attorneys are available near you no matter where you work or live.

Contact our law firm today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation regarding your case. We will get through this together.

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