Navigating the criminal justice system without strong legal representation can increase your risk of suffering severe punishment. Conviction for a sex offense, such as statutory rape, can lead to time in prison, substantial fines, and a permanent criminal record. At the Law Offices of Gregory H. Comings, we will assess your case and offer highly-personalized and dedicated advocacy.
Effective statutory rape defenses can result in the dismissal or reduction of your criminal charges. For all crimes, including sex crimes, the prosecution is required to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Since every case is different, the facts dictate exactly what must be proven. For decades, Riverside Attorney Comings and the team at The Law Offices of Gregory H. Comings have successfully defended people from criminal charges related to drug offenses, domestic violence, and more. Our goal is to safeguard your rights and protect your future.
California Penal Code section 261.5 makes clear it is a crime to commit unlawful sexual activity with a minor who is not your spouse. The age of consent in California is 18, which means that unless a person is 18 or older they cannot provide legal consent to sexual intercourse. If the person under 18 willingly participates in the act of sexual intercourse, it is still a crime. California does not maintain a “close in age exception,” as other states do.
As a wobbler crime, statutory rape may lead to either a felony or misdemeanor conviction. Felony convictions can result in more than a year in state prison, as well as fines and other penalties. If you are convicted of a misdemeanor you may face up to a year in county jail as well as fines.
The prosecution will look at specific factors such as the ages of the defendant and alleged victim to determine the penalty. In the case of a defendant aged 22 and a victim aged 16, the penalties may be more severe than a couple aged 19 and 17. If the defendant has a prior criminal record, this may affect the severity of their sentence. Additionally, the prosecution may consider the particular sexual act underlying the crime.
A strong defense to statutory rape may help avoid the consequences of a criminal conviction. If a person has a good faith belief that the victim was 18 years old, or older, they will not be convicted of violating California Penal Code section 261.5. This belief must be honest and reasonable, and supported by evidence. For instance, supporting evidence may include the victim making a statement that they were over the age of 18, appeared over 18, and/or were present in an adult party or a venue for adults. If the defendant met the alleged victim in a bar, the court may deem it reasonable for the defendant to believe that they were over 18.
Consent is not a defense to statutory rape. The rationale is that people under the age of 18 are legally unable to give consent. Minors are considered too immature to be able to fully understand the legal consequences of their actions.
A possible defense may be that the alleged penetration did not occur. Since statutory rape requires sexual penetration, if this did not take place, a conviction cannot stand. It may be possible for a skilled attorney to assert this defense, dependent on the facts.
Criminal charges for a sex crime such as statutory rape can have significant ramifications. Riverside Attorney Gregory Comings will conduct a thorough investigation and work with his skilled team to help make clear your side of the story. Call our office at (951) 686-3457 or fill out our online form to learn more. We proudly help people throughout the areas of Coachella, Palm Springs, Cathedral City, San Jacinto, and more.