Consent Laws in California

by Ambrosio Rodriguez | Nov 01, 2023 | California Law
Consent Laws in California

Understanding consent laws in California is crucial if you have been arrested and are facing charges related to rape, statutory rape, or any other sex crime. This information can inform your legal strategies, defenses, and overall understanding of the case against you.

What Is Consent?

Consent is voluntarily giving permission or agreement to something. In the context of sexual activity, consent means agreeing to engage and having the freedom and capacity to make that choice. 

It emphasizes open communication between parties, which involves respect for boundaries and mutual acceptance toward engaging in specific sexual activities without any sort of coercion or misunderstanding.

Age of Consent in California

In California, the age of consent is 18. Therefore, individuals under this age are regarded as minors and legally cannot give consent to engage in sexual activities with an adult (someone aged 18 or above). 

This means that even if a minor willingly participates in sexual activity, it is still considered illegal since they’re not eligible to provide consent due to their age. 

Statutory Rape Charges

If an adult engages in sexual activity with someone younger than 18, they can be charged with statutory rape. The state can choose to prosecute this offense as either a felony or misdemeanor – the severity depends on the specific circumstances of each case.

Potential punishment for statutory rape in California can be serious, with jail time up to four years if convicted. For those convicted of this crime, sex offender registry is not required. 

Defenses to Statutory Rape

If you’re a defendant in a statutory rape or other sex crime case, it’s important to know what some of the most common defenses are: 

False Accusations

You could argue that the allegations against you are untrue or exaggerated, perhaps arising out of spite, revenge, or misunderstanding from the accuser.

No Sexual Intercourse

Here it must be demonstrated in court that no sexual intercourse occurred between you and the individual making accusations. You may argue that certain sexual activities took place, but there was never intercourse, which negates the statutory rape charge. 

Good Faith Belief of Age

This defense asserts that based on reasonable circumstances, you genuinely thought at the time of engagement that the person was not under 18. For example, you were deceived regarding their age because you met them in a bar and saw them order alcoholic drinks.


Spouses who’ve legally married each other can engage in sexual relations without violating the law even if one partner is under the age of 18.

California Does Not Have Romeo and Juliet Laws

In California, there are no “Romeo and Juliet” laws, also known as close-in-age exemptions. These particular types of laws in some states provide legal protections for people engaging in consensual sexual activity who are very close in age, but one or both of them is below the statutory age of consent.

The intent behind Romeo and Juliet laws is to prevent young adults from severe sex crime charges and other lifelong repercussions due to consensual relationships with their slightly younger partners.

For example, two high school students, where one is 18 and the other is 17, or two underage students, both 17.

Since such a provision doesn’t exist under California’s penal code, two individuals under the age of 18 engaging in sexual intercourse can potentially face legal consequences for statutory rape regardless if their relationship was consensual. Additionally, if an 18-year-old engages in sexual intercourse with a 17-year-old, the 18-year-old can face statutory rape charges.

Adults Can Sometimes Date Minors, But It Isn’t Wise

In California, it’s technically legal for an adult to date a minor if they aren’t engaging in sexual intercourse, but it’s worth noting that this can carry potential risks, as it could raise other criminal charges like solicitation of a minor.

There are also some instances in which an adult is not permitted to date a minor, such as when the adult in question has a criminal background or is currently on the sex offender registry.

Additionally, individuals in positions of trust or authority over minors (teachers, coaches, and more) are legally prohibited from dating minors due to the potential for abuse of power.

If you find yourself facing any type of sex-related charges, it’s crucial that you act immediately to protect your rights. Reach out to us as soon as possible – we’re here to help and guide you through this challenging time. Contact us to schedule a free consultation with a sex crimes defense lawyer.


For more information please contact the Los Angeles Criminal Defense law firm of The Rodriguez Law Group for a free consultation, give us a call at (213)-528-3912 or visit our convenient location:

The Rodriguez Law Group – Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney
626 Wilshire Blvd Suite 460, Los Angeles, CA 90017, United States