Does California Have Romeo and Juliet Laws?

by Ambrosio Rodriguez | Aug 18, 2022 | Sex Crimes
Does California Have Romeo and Juliet Laws?

A Romeo and Juliet law decriminalizes teenage sex. It states that it is not a crime when two minors consent to sex.

Romeo and Juliet laws vary by state. Generally, Romeo and Juliet laws generally allow someone over 14 to have consensual sex with another person who is also a teenager.

California does not have a Romeo and Juliet law. It is illegal to have sexual relations with a minor, even if the offender is a minor.

A minor is any person under 18 years old. There is an exception to the statutory rape law for married teenagers. However, teenagers must have a court order approving the marriage.

What Is Statutory Rape in California?

Under California law, you can be charged with statutory rape for having sex with anyone under 18 years old. Because a minor cannot consent to sexual relations, it does not matter whether the minor “wanted” to engage in sex with another person.

California Penal Code §261.5 defines statutory rape as sexual intercourse with a minor who is not the person’s legal spouse. The state must prove:

  • You had sex with the alleged victim
  • The alleged victim is under 18 years old
  • You were not married when you had sex

Statutory rape is a wobbler offense. The prosecutor can charge the person with a misdemeanor or a felony. The alleged victim’s age is the primary factor in determining the charge.

Typically, the prosecutor charges statutory rape as a misdemeanor when the age difference between the parties is less than three years. When there is more than three years difference in age, the charge could be a misdemeanor or a felony. If the alleged perpetrator is over 21 years old and the alleged victim is under 16 years old, the charge is a felony.

The penalty for misdemeanor statutory rape is a fine of up to $1,000, up to one year in county jail, and informal (summary) probation.

The alleged perpetrator faces a fine of up to $10,000 and probation for felony statutory rape. Depending on the facts of the case, the person could serve up to a year in county jail or 16 months, two years, or three years in prison. The prison term could be up to four years if the victim is under 16 years old and the defendant is over 21 years old.

What Should You Do if You Are Accused of Statutory Rape?

Contact a criminal defense lawyer immediately when facing charges of sex crimes. Do not talk to the police without a lawyer present. Police officers often lie to suspects to obtain incriminating evidence before the person “lawyers up.”

Also, do not try to contact the alleged victim or anyone related to the victim. It is best to refrain from talking to anyone about the charges except a criminal defense attorney. Your lawyer advises you of the other steps you should take to prepare to defend yourself against statutory rape charges.

Potential Defenses To Statutory Rape Charges in California

The facts and circumstances of the case impact the type of defense your lawyer uses for statutory rape charges. The victim could be lying about the rape allegations. A person may use allegations of statutory rape as revenge or as a way to cause trouble for someone.

Unless you were caught in the act or there is physical evidence of sexual intercourse, the statutory rape allegations are based solely on the alleged victim’s testimony. Your defense may include evidence of an alibi.

Your lawyer also searches for evidence that proves the allegations are false. That could include statements made by the alleged victim on social media and testimony by other parties.

You may also argue that you reasonably believed the person was over 18 years old as a defense against statutory rape charges. For example, the victim had a fake identification that allowed them to order alcoholic beverages or enter an establishment that only admits adults.

The alleged victim may have told you they were over 18 years old. Statements made by other people could have supported that information. The crucial factor to this defense is that a reasonable person would have thought the person was over 18 years old based on the same circumstances.

A  criminal defense lawyer investigates the circumstances leading to the statutory rape charges. They interview witnesses and review police records and statements made by the alleged victim. Additionally, the lawyer might hire forensic experts to analyze forensic and physical evidence in the case.

Being arrested for statutory rape does not mean you are guilty. However, do not assume innocence will prevent a criminal conviction. You need a solid legal defense.

Contact the Los Angeles Criminal Defense Law Firm of The Rodriguez Law Group Today For Help

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) 995-6767 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