Can I Date a 17-Year-Old Being 19 Years Old?

by Ambrosio Rodriguez | Jan 16, 2021 | Sex Crimes
dating a minor, couple

What is the Age of Consent in California?

Unlike other states that allow minors to consent to sexual intercourse, the age of consent in California is 18 years. A person under the age of 18 years cannot legally consent to sexual intercourse. The age of consent is the same for both males and females.

Therefore, if you are 19 years old and have sex with a 17-year-old, you could be arrested for a sex crime. In most cases, the crime would be statutory rape

Proving a Statutory Rape Charge

For the state to obtain a conviction on statutory rape charges, the prosecutor must prove each of the following legal elements:

  • You had sexual intercourse with the alleged victim. Any amount of penetration is considered sexual intercourse.
  • You were not married to the other person at the time of sexual intercourse.
  • The alleged victim was under the age of 18 years at the time of the sexual intercourse.

It does not matter whether the alleged victim agreed to or wanted to have sexual intercourse. If the prosecution can prove the three legal elements, it is sufficient to obtain a conviction for statutory rape.

Does California Have a Romeo and Juliet Law?

Some states have enacted Romeo and Juliet laws. The laws vary by state.

Generally, Romeo and Juliet laws make exceptions for prosecution when the parties are close in age, and both are minors. For example, the parties are 16 and 17 years of age at the time of sexual intercourse.

California does not have a Romeo and Juliet law. Both individuals can be prosecuted for statutory rape if they are both under the age of 18 years when they have sexual intercourse.

What Are the Penalties for Statutory Rape in California?

California classifies statutory rape as a “wobbler” offense. That means that you can be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. The charge will be a misdemeanor if the age difference between the parties is no more than three years.

If there are more than three years difference between the parties, the offense may be either a misdemeanor or a felony. When the alleged victim is under 16 years of age, and the alleged perpetrator is 21 years or older, the charge is a felony. 

The potential penalties for a misdemeanor conviction of statutory rape include up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, and informal probation.

The potential penalties for a felony conviction of statutory rape include a fine of up to $10,000 and either formal or informal felony probation and up to one year in jail. 

If probation is not granted, the person can serve up to three years in prison, unless the victim is under 16 and the perpetrator is 21 and older. In that case, the jail time could be up to four years.

Are There Defenses to Statutory Rape Charges?

Consent is not a defense. As discussed above, both parties being minors is also not a defense to statutory rape charges. However, there could be several potential defenses available depending on the facts of your case.

Legally Married

Statutory rape does not apply if the parties are lawfully married, the sex is consensual, and one or both parties are under the age of 18 years. California is one of the few states that does not have a minimum age for marriage. Parental consent and court permission may be required before the marriage.

Mistake of Age Defense

If you honestly believed that the victim was 18 years of age or older, you can argue a mistake of age defense. Statements made by the victim that they were over 18 years old, the victim’s general appearance, and where you met the victim could be evidence that supports a mistake of age defense.

No Sexual Intercourse

Another defense would be that you did not engage in sexual intercourse. Statutory rape charges are based on the fact that you and the minor engaged in sexual intercourse.

False Allegations 

Unfortunately, as with rape, indecent exposure, sexual assault, and other sex crimes, false allegations may be the cause of the arrest. A minor may accuse another person of statutory rape out of anger or to seek revenge. 

If you have been falsely accused of statutory rape, seek legal counsel immediately. Do not attempt to contact the alleged victim or resolve the matter yourself. Your actions could be used against you in court.

To learn more, call our Los Angeles criminal defense law firm at 213-995-6767 or visit our contact us page to send us an email.