Is consent a defense to statutory rape charges?
Not only does a sexual assault conviction come with serious penalties in California, but it also exposes individuals to extreme social stigma. This stigma may follow you forever, as you may have to register as a sex offender. Still, you may have some valid defenses to any rape charges you are currently facing.
Consent is usually a defense to sexual assault allegations. When it comes to statutory rape, though, consent is never a defense. This is because minors do not have the legal authority to consent to sexual intercourse.
A legal scheme to protect minors
Because minors do not have fully developed decision-making capabilities, all states prohibit adults from having sexual contact with them. The age of consent, though, varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
According to Section 261.5 of the California Penal Code, it is unlawful to engage in sex with anyone who has not reached the age of 18. This means it is a crime in the Golden State to have sexual contact with 17- and 16-year-olds.
No exemption for minors
Some states have Romeo and Juliet laws that exempt minors who have sexual intercourse with other minors from criminal prosecution. California does not have one of these laws, though. Therefore, it is possible for prosecutors to file statutory rape charges against someone under 18.
Nevertheless, the age of both the defendant and minor may affect the seriousness of the statutory rape charges. That is, if both are comparatively close in age, prosecutors may consider statutory rape to be a misdemeanor offense instead of a felonious one.
Ultimately, because your defense options hinge on a careful analysis of both the facts of your situation and the law, it is advisable to discuss your arrest with legal counsel before talking to anyone else about it.