State law prohibits sexual intercourse between adults and individuals under the age of 18. In today’s world, the majority of teenagers are sexually active. Statutory rape offenses occur every day, and otherwise law-abiding individuals find themselves facing criminal charges.

If you have been charged with unlawful sex with a minor, or statutory rape, you need to hire a top-rated criminal defense attorney immediately. This crime typically carries substantial fines and prison time. An Orange County statutory rape lawyer could protect your rights and drastically increase your chances of obtaining a positive outcome. Our sex crimes attorneys at The Law Office of Scott D. Henry have earned a top-notch reputation for being proactive and aggressive in defending their clients. We could help you fight the charges against you and help you secure your freedom.

What is Considered Statutory Rape in Orange County?

California Penal Code 261.5 PC makes it illegal to engage in sexual intercourse with anyone under the age of 18, even if it is consensual. Sex with a minor is commonly referred to as statutory rape and can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. PC 261.5 states that to be convicted of statutory rape, the three elements must be proven. The elements are:

  • The defendant had sexual intercourse with the alleged victim
  • The defendant and the alleged victim were not married at the time of the incident
  • At the time of the incident, the alleged victim was under the age of 18.

California does not have what is called a “Romeo and Juliet” law, which makes sexual intercourse with a minor legal under certain circumstances.

Is Sex with a Minor a Misdemeanor or Felony?

Statutory rape is a “wobbler,” which means it can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. The age difference between the accused and the alleged victim typically determines how it is charged.

  • If the alleged perpetrator is no more than 3 years older than the minor, it is charged as a misdemeanor.
  • If the alleged perpetrator is more than three years older than the alleged victim, sex with a minor may be charged as a misdemeanor or felony.
  • If the alleged perpetrator is over 21, and the alleged victim is under 16, it is charged as a felony.

These are general guidelines, and the decision to charge a misdemeanor or a felony is made by the District Attorney. A skilled attorney in Orange County could seek to negotiate with the prosecutor to get a felony charge reduced to a misdemeanor or possibly have the statutory rape charge dropped.

The penalties for a misdemeanor conviction are up to one year in jail, informal probation, and up to $1,000 in fines. For a felony conviction, the penalties are:

  • Informal probation or formal felony probation with up to one year in jail or
  • 16 months, two years, or three years in jail
  •  Two to four years in jail if the alleged victim was under 16 and the defendant was over 21
  • Up to $10,000 in fines

It is important to note if an individual is convicted, they may be required to register as a sex offender. Ultimately, it depends on the circumstances of the case and is at the judge’s discretion.

Defenses for Statutory Rape Charges

Statutory rape is a serious offense and can significantly impact your reputation and future. Fortunately, there are some effective defenses for charges involving sex with a minor.  The most common and effective defense is that you honestly believed the alleged victim was over 18 at the time of the sexual activity. Evidence to support this defense would be if the alleged victim stated they were over the age of 18 or if the alleged victim’s demeanor and attire were that of someone over 18.

Another effective defense to statutory rape charges is that it is a false accusation. Often, false allegations of sex with a minor stem from anger, jealousy, or revenge. The allegation may also be initiated by a minor’s parent who may be unhappy with a relationship between their child and the accused.

An additional defense is that the alleged sexual intercourse never took place. To be convicted of statutory rape, penetration must have occurred. If penetration did not happen, the defendant cannot be convicted of sex with a minor. A skilled lawyer in Orange County could help someone facing statutory rape charges build a defense based around the facts of their case.

Contact a Skilled Orange County Statutory Rape Attorney Today

An allegation or charge of statutory rape should not be taken lightly. It is a serious offense that is highly prosecuted and strictly punished. If you are facing allegations or charges involving sex with a minor, you must immediately contact an Orange County statutory rape lawyer. Scott D. Henry and his team could discretely investigate the alleged charges and determine an effective strategy in moving forward.

We understand your personal and professional reputation are at stake, as well as your freedom and future. Our team could be available to hear your side of the story and fight diligently in your defense. Contact us today for a free consultation, so we could discuss your case, advise you of your rights, and explain how to best move forward.

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