Can You Be Charged with Statutory Rape in San Diego?

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Statutory rape (legally called “unlawful sexual intercourse”) in California carries substantial criminal penalties.

However, statutory rape charges require adequate proof, and several defenses are available. If you or a loved one faces criminal statutory rape charges, contact a criminal defense attorney to assess your legal options.

What Is Statutory Rape?

If you engage in sexual intercourse with someone under age 18 who is not your spouse, you may face statutory rape charges.

To convict you of statutory rape, the prosecution must prove:

  • You had sexual intercourse with the victim,
  • The victim was less than 18 years of age at the time, and
  • You were not married to the victim at the time of the incident.

Statutory rape convictions carry serious consequences, including lengthy jail or prison sentences and heavy fines.

California Statutory Rape Laws

California refers to statutory rape as “unlawful sexual intercourse.” Statutory rape occurs when an individual engages in sexual intercourse with a minor, even if the minor consents to the intercourse. In California, the age of consent is 18.

Some states impose Romeo and Juliet laws that allow defendants to escape statutory rape charges if the participants are within a certain age range of each other.

However, California does not. Instead, California imposes lighter penalties on defendants convicted of statutory rape with a victim who is less than three years younger than them. A sex crime conviction can greatly impact your life and reputation.

Our team of sex crimes lawyers at The Law Offices of Kerry Armstrong, APLC, have handled numerous cases involving statutory rape allegations in California.

We understand the seriousness of these charges and are committed to providing our clients with the highest level of legal representation. Contact our office today to schedule your free consultation. 

Can You Be Charged with Statutory Rape in San Diego?

Yes, you can be charged with statutory rape in San Diego. Statutory rape charges frequently arise in the context of a consensual, intimate relationship between an adult and a minor.

Despite the consensual nature of the relationship, California imposes harsh penalties on those convicted of statutory rape. 

What is the legal consent age in San Diego?

Throughout California, including San Diego, the legal age of consent is 18 years of age. 

Is Statutory Rape a Misdemeanor in California?

In California, prosecutors can charge statutory rape as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the facts of the case.

California considers unlawful sexual intercourse a misdemeanor when the minor is less than three years younger than the adult charged with the crime.

For example, a misdemeanor statutory rape charge may involve a 19-year-old having sexual intercourse with their 17-year-old significant other. 

Is Statutory Rape Hard to Prove? 

Typically, a prosecutor only needs to demonstrate that an adult engaged in sexual intercourse with a minor. That is why it is critical to hire an attorney to help you navigate statutory rape charges.

Statutory Rape Statute of Limitations in California

As with most criminal cases, the prosecutor must file charges for statutory rape within a certain time frame after the incident.

Known as the statute of limitations, if the prosecution does not file before the appropriate deadline, you cannot be charged with the crime. Statutes of limitations for statutory rape depend on the nature of the crime and the age of the victim.

Statutes of limitations also depend on whether the prosecution may charge the offense as a misdemeanor or a felony.

Misdemeanors have a statute of limitations of one year. Felony statutory rape has a three-year statute of limitations.

However, if a defendant is less than three years older than the victim, the prosecution must file charges within one year of the alleged offense.

With the recent developments in DNA evidence, California created a law that extends the statute of limitations for statutory rape.

For charges committed after January 1, 2001, and where the DNA evidence was collected within two years of the offense, the prosecution has one year to file charges after the DNA evidence reveals a suspect.

What Is the Penalty for Statutory Rape in California?

A misdemeanor statutory rape sentence carries potential penalties of up to 364 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. 

California considers statutory rape a felony if the minor is more than three years younger than the adult charged with the crime. A felony statutory rape sentence in California carries a maximum penalty of up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

If the minor was under 16, the potential penalties increase to a maximum sentence of four years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.

Should I Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney?

Statutory rape charges require sufficient proof, and several defenses are available. Hiring an attorney can help reduce your charges and minimize the long-term consequences of a conviction.

Your attorney will help you by:

  • Investigating your case,
  • Gathering important documents,
  • Negotiating with the prosecution on your behalf, and
  • Representing you in court if your case gets filed or goes to trial.

Statutory rape charges carry serious consequences. The legal process can be long and difficult, and you should not have to face it on your own.

Contact a Qualified Criminal Defense Attorney Today

At the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, we fight diligently to protect our clients’ rights and freedoms. We provide hands-on, personalized legal services.

We will answer your questions and provide you with support through every step of the process. For a free consultation, call our office at 619-304-2058 or fill out an online form today. 

Statutory Rape Frequently Asked Questions

If you face statutory rape charges, you probably have many questions. Our experienced staff can help answer your questions and provide you with the support and advice you need.

Can I Be Charged with Statutory Rape If the Other Person Consented to Sex?

Statutory rape does not require proof of consent. California law created statutory rape laws because, under the law, minors under age 18 cannot legally consent to sexual intercourse. Even if the other person consents, you may still face charges if they are under 18 years old.

Will I Face Charges If the Other Person Told Me She Was 18 Years Old?

If someone tells you they are 18 years or older and you have sexual intercourse, you may not be criminally responsible for statutory rape. However, your belief that the other person is 18 or older must be reasonable. For example, it would not be reasonable to believe a 12-year-old who tells you they are 18 years old.

What If the Other Person’s Parents Gave Me Permission to Have Sex With Their Son or Daughter?

Under California law, parents cannot give consent on behalf of their children to have sexual intercourse. While parents can give consent for a minor to marry, consent is not a valid defense against statutory rape.

Author Photo

Kerry L. Armstrong


Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm in June 2007. Mr. Armstrong attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and received his B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. Kerry L. Armstrong became certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization for criminal law in August 2020, making him one of the few criminal defense attorneys with a criminal law legal specialization certificate in San Diego County.  Between 2014 – 2019, Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys.

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