The punishment associated with a statutory rape crime is severe, possibly including imprisonment in state prison for up to four years and thousands of dollars in fines, in addition to the social stigma associated with statutory rape, which can follow you for the rest of your life. Hiring an experienced, aggressive statutory rape attorney can ensure your rights and your future are aggressively defended.
Statutory rape is a crime that most people have heard about, but few fully understand. Because it contains the word “rape,” statutory rape sounds like a crime involving sexual violence, abuse, or coercion, but that is not necessarily the case. Statutory rape at its simplest is the crime of an adult (someone 18 or older) having sex with a minor (someone younger than 18), though the actual age of the two participants is a key component of sentencing.
If you have been arrested for or charged with statutory rape in Orange County, your freedom and your future may be at risk. Contact our Orange County criminal defense attorneys at Seyb Law Group today to find out how best to defend yourself against statutory rape charges.
ORANGE COUNTY STATUTORY RAPE ATTORNEY
The most terrifying thing about Orange County statutory rape charges is that they can arise out of a loving, committed relationship between two people if one of them is 18 or older and the other is younger than 18; the law only cares about how old the defendant and the minor were when the sexual intercourse occurred and the age difference between them, not the nature of their relationship.
What that means is, even if the defendant and minor were only two years apart in age at the time the sexual intercourse occurred, and the sex was consensual, the defendant could be found guilty of statutory rape.
Often, it is the parent of a minor who has an older boyfriend or girlfriend who contacts the police and reports allegations of statutory rape, sometimes without the minor even knowing.
The strict nature of the laws surrounding statutory rape in Orange County, and the severity of the penalties associated with a statutory rape conviction, is staggering.
Too often, statutory rape charges are brought against innocent individuals, and their lives are ruined as a result. Our criminal defense attorneys at Seyb Law Group are committed to protecting the rights of the criminally accused in Orange County and the surrounding counties, and we will use every resource at our disposal to help you get the best possible outcome in your statutory rape case, regardless of the extent of the charges against you.
Statutory rape is a serious sex crime and you should never risk a conviction. Consult our defense lawyers today for a free evaluation of your statutory rape case.
STATUTORY RAPE DEFINITION
The crime of statutory rape, also known as “unlawful sex with a minor,” takes place when an adult 18 years of age or older engages in sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 18 to whom he or she is not married.
Under Orange County law, statutory rape is considered a crime whether the sexual intercourse was consensual or even initiated by the minor. Consent does not play a role in statutory rape cases, nor does the use of force, fraud, or fear of bodily harm.
This is in stark contrast to the crime of Orange County rape, in which the victim’s lack of consent and the defendant’s use of force, violence, menace, threats, or fraud to accomplish the intercourse are two key elements of the crime.
California Statutory Rape Penal Code § 261.5 PC
The law prohibiting statutory rape in Orange County is Penal Code § 261.5 PC, which states: “Unlawful sexual intercourse is an act of sexual intercourse accomplished with a person who is not the spouse of the perpetrator, if the person is a minor. For the purposes of [PC § 261.5], a ‘minor’ is a person under the age of 18 years and an ‘adult’ is a person who is at least 18 years of age.” Some examples of situations that could result in Orange County statutory rape charges include the following:
- An 18-year-old and 16-year-old who have been dating for three years have sex for the first time
- A 19-year-old high school senior has a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old sophomore
- A 33-year-old teacher has a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old student in his class
Other sex crimes related to, but separate from, the crime of statutory rape include: lewd or lascivious acts with a child, also known as child molestation (PC § 288), rape (PC § 261) and sexual assault (PC § 243.4).
PENALTIES FOR A STATUTORY RAPE CONVICTION IN ORANGE COUNTY
In Orange County, the crime of statutory rape is a “wobbler,” which means it can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or felony, and the punishment associated with a statutory rape conviction varies greatly, depending on the circumstances of the case and the defendant’s criminal history, if any.
The most critical components of statutory rape sentencing are the age of the minor and the age difference between the minor and the defendant at the time the alleged crime occurred. The three factors that determine how statutory rape will be charged and what the potential punishment may include are as follows:
- If the defendant is no more than three years older than the alleged victim, statutory rape is charged as a misdemeanor crime.
- If the defendant is more than three years older than the alleged victim, statutory rape can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony crime.
- If the defendant is 21 or older and the alleged victim is under 16, statutory rape can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony crime, but the potential penalties of a felony conviction are significantly steeper.
A misdemeanor statutory rape conviction in Orange County is punishable by informal probation, a maximum sentence of one year in county jail, and/or a maximum fine of $1,000.
A felony statutory rape conviction, however, carries a potential punishment of probation with up to one year in county jail or 16 months, two years or three years in state prison (unless the defendant was 21 or older and the alleged victim was under 16, in which case the potential sentence is two, three or four years in state prison), and/or up-to $10,000 in fines.
In addition to criminal penalties for statutory rape, the defendant could also face civil penalties (non-criminal fines) associated with the criminal offense, but only if he or she is 18 years old or older. The maximum civil penalties for statutory rape are as follows:
- $2,000 if the alleged victim is less than two years younger than the defendant
- $5,000 if the alleged victim is at least two years younger than the defendant
- $10,000 if the alleged victim is at least three years younger than the defendant
- $25,000 if the alleged victim was under 16, and the defendant was over 21
ORANGE COUNTY STATUTORY RAPE DEFENSE
Facing statutory rape charges may seem like the end of the world, but it is important to remember that you still have rights and that you have the presumption of innocence on your side.
Legally, you are presumed innocent of any criminal offense until proven guilty, and proving your alleged guilt is up to the prosecutor. Regardless of the specific details of your case, the prosecutor bears the burden of proof, which means he or she must prove each of the following elements of the crime of statutory rape beyond a reasonable doubt, in order to get a guilty verdict:
- That you had sexual intercourse with another person,
- That you and the other person were not married to one another at the time (the fact that the minor is married to someone else or used to be married does not factor into this crime), and
- That the other person was under the age of 18.
The two most important things to remember in a statutory rape case is that the prosecutor does not have to prove either that force was used to accomplish the sexual intercourse or that the alleged victim did not consent to the intercourse to get a statutory rape conviction.
The prosecutor will, however, have to prove how old the defendant and minor were when the intercourse took place.
Best Defense Strategies in Orange County Statutory Rape Cases
The reality is that we live in a society where teenagers are sexually active, and harsh statutory rape laws in Orange County are causing otherwise law-abiding individuals to be unfairly prosecuted and sent to jail on sex crime charges.
Fortunately, there are a number of legal defenses your attorney may be able to use to explain your actions or introduce a different version of events that disputes the prosecution’s evidence against you. The following are some effective defense strategies your attorney may present on your behalf to fight your Orange County statutory rape charges:
- Age – Statutory rape is the crime of engaging in unlawful sex with a minor. If the alleged victim was at least 18 years old at the time the sexual intercourse occurred – legally an adult – you cannot lawfully be convicted of statutory rape.
- Reasonable mistake of age – If you were under the impression that the alleged victim was at least 18 years old, either because of statements he or she made, because of his or her attire or general appearance, or because of where you met (at a bar or adult venue), you cannot lawfully be found guilty of statutory rape.
- Marriage – If you are married to a person under the age of 18, you are legally permitted to have sex with them. Statutory rape laws don’t apply to this situation and you, therefore, cannot legally be found guilty of the crime under these circumstances.
- No sexual intercourse – Under the law, sexual intercourse is defined as any penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or genitalia by the penis. If no actual sexual intercourse took place between you and the alleged victim, you cannot legally be convicted of statutory rape.
- False accusation – False accusations of statutory rape happen more often than you might think. If the alleged victim falsely accuses you of statutory rape, but no actual sexual intercourse took place, you cannot lawfully be found guilty of the crime.
Unlike the crime of rape (PC § 261), consent is not a defense to statutory rape. Whether or not the alleged victim was a willing participant in the act of sexual intercourse does not apply to this criminal offense. The law states that minors are not old enough to fully understand and appreciate legally the consequences of their actions and are therefore not legally able to give consent.
HOW HIRING A STATUTORY RAPE DEFENSE ATTORNEY CAN HELP
Sex crimes involving minors are treated extremely seriously in Orange County, as they should be if they are truly criminal acts involving abuse, coercion, violence, or the threat of violence. However, under PC § 261.5, statutory rape charges can be unfairly brought against an innocent person.
For example, a 19-year-old defendant can be charged with and convicted of the crime of having unlawful sex with a minor, even if the minor is his 16-year-old high school sweetheart with whom he is involved in a loving, consensual sexual relationship.
And even under these circumstances, a statutory rape conviction in Orange County can result in a county jail sentence and significant fines.
If you have been charged with the crime of statutory rape, you need an experienced sex crimes defense attorney on your side who can investigate every aspect of your case and choose a solid defense strategy, one that has the greatest likelihood of success in light of the evidence presented by the prosecution.
CONTACT OUR EXPERIENCED STATUTORY RAPE DEFENSE ATTORNEYS
Most sex-related crimes in Orange County involve situations where one person forces another person to engage in sexual activity against the other person’s will. Statutory rape, however, often involves two willing individuals in a mutually respectful relationship, one of whom just happens to be a minor.
The criminal and civil penalties resulting from a statutory rape conviction in Orange County can be devastating and life-changing, especially if your punishment includes a county jail or state prison sentence.
Being charged with or arrested for statutory rape, can ruin your reputation within the community and destroy your personal and professional relationships, and a conviction can adversely affect your employment prospects, professional licensing, and immigration status.