Can a 17 Year Old Girl Date an 18 Year Old Boy? And if They Have Sexual Relations at That Age Is It Illegal in California?
California does not set a minimum age for someone to date within the state legally. However, if an adult has sexual relations with a minor, the adult can be charged with statutory rape. Therefore, you may date someone who is 17 if you are 18 years old, but if you have sexual relations with that person, you could face a sex crimes charge.
What is the Age of Consent in California?
The age of consent is different from when a person is considered an adult for other purposes, such as voting or serving in the military. The age of consent is the age at which a person can give meaningful consent, such as the consent to engage in sexual relations.
The age of consent varies by state. Some states allow minors to consent to sexual intercourse if both individuals are close in age and are minors (i.e., Romeo and Juliet laws). However, California does not have a Romeo and Juliet law.
The age of consent for sexual relations in California is 18 years of age. Therefore, if a person is under 18 years old, they cannot give consent to have sexual intercourse.
Does it Matter Whether the Boy or Girl is Older?
No, it does not matter whether the boy or girl is a minor. The law applies to both males and females. Furthermore, it also does not matter whether the minor consented to intercourse.
The state can prove statutory rape charges by proving each of the following legal elements:
- You had sexual intercourse with the alleged victim (any amount of penetration counts as sexual intercourse);
- The alleged victim was under the age of 18 years when the sexual intercourse occurred; AND,
- You were not legally married to the alleged victim when you engaged in sexual intercourse.
Your boyfriend or girlfriend can tell the police, their parents, and the prosecutor that they initiated sex with you, but it would not matter. If you are 18 years old and they are 17 years old, you committed statutory rape according to the law.
What Are the Penalties for Statutory Rape in California?
It is a crime to have sex with a minor. That includes two minors having sex. Therefore, you could be charged with statutory rape even if you are under 18 years old.
Generally, if the age difference between you and the alleged victim is no more than three years, you are charged with a misdemeanor offense. However, statutory rape is a wobbler offense.
If you are more than three years older than the alleged victim, the prosecutor may charge you with a misdemeanor or a felony. If you are 21 years old or older and the alleged victim is under 16 years old, the state charges you with felony statutory rape.
The punishment for misdemeanor statutory rape is:
- A fine of up to $1,000
- Summary (informal) probation
- Up to one year in jail
The punishment for felony statutory rape is:
- A fine of up to $10,000
- Jail sentence between one year to three years (four years if you are over 21 years old and the alleged victim is under 16 years old)
Even though the state charges you with statutory rape, it does not mean you are guilty. There could be one or more defenses to statutory rape that could prevent you from going to jail.
Four Common Defenses to Statutory Rape Charges in Los Angeles
Your attorney may develop a defense strategy using one or more of the following arguments:
You Are Married to the Alleged Victim
Minors who are legally married can engage in consensual sexual relations, even when one or both parties are under the age of 18 years.
Unfortunately, a minor may claim that you had sex with them when that was not the case. For example, false allegations of statutory rape may be used to seek revenge against an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend. Likewise, a minor may falsely accuse an adult of statutory rape if they are angry with the adult.
No Sexual Intercourse
For statutory rape to occur, you and the minor must have had sexual intercourse. The prosecutor has the burden of proving you engaged in sexual intercourse with the alleged victim. Your attorney may attack the evidence as insufficient or incorrect.
A mistaken age defense argues that you honestly believed that the alleged victim was 18 years old or older when you engaged in sexual intercourse. Where you met the person, their general appearance, statements made by the alleged victim, and other evidence may support a mistaken age defense.
If the police arrest you on statutory rape charges, do not answer questions or make a statement. Do not contact the alleged victim or other parties. Instead, call a Los Angeles statutory rape attorney immediately. Anything you say without a lawyer could impact your chance of beating statutory rape charges.
Last Updated on April 2, 2022