What is unlawful sexual intercourse in the state of California?

As an adult in California, having sex with a minor could result in unlawful sexual intercourse charges, even if it is consensual.

Increasingly, teens in the East Bay, and throughout California, are sexually active. Sometimes, they may enter into relationships with people who are older than them. Unfortunately, should these relationships become physical, their partners could face serious criminal charges.

The Fresno Bee recently reported that a former high school teacher in Fresno County pleaded no contest to a felony charge of statutory rape. The criminal allegations stemmed from a relationship between the 33-year-old man and a 17-year-old female student. They were reportedly intimate between October and December of 2014, including encounters that occurred while the girl was living with the teacher, his wife and his daughter. The man was sentenced to three years of probation.

Sexual intercourse with a minor

Under California state law, it is considered unlawful sexual intercourse if an adult has sex with someone who is under the age of 18-years-old. Sometimes referred to as statutory rape, people may be charged with this offense even if the act is consensual. This is because it is assumed that minors are not capable of giving informed consent for sexual activities. There is, however, an exception for couples who are married.

Romeo and Juliet provision

The law carries a limited exception, which is commonly referred to as the Romeo and Juliet provision. This exception is intended to protect those who have consensual sex with partners who are close to their age from serious criminal charges. For example, high school sweethearts ages 18-years-old and 16-years-old have consensual sex. The older of the two could technically be charged with statutory rape under the state's laws.

Under the Romeo and Juliet exemption, however, the teen may face reduced charges. California state law specifies that a charge for unlawful sexual intercourse may be reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor if the alleged perpetrator and alleged victim are three years or less apart in age.

Potential penalties

The penalties that people may face if convicted of this type of crime against children may vary depending on the circumstances of their cases. If found guilty of a misdemeanor charge, the law provides that people may be sentenced to up to one year in county jail. They may also be fined up to $1,000.

Those who are at least three years older than their alleged victims who are convicted of felony charges may be sentenced to between 16 months and three years in county jail. Additionally, they may be fined up to $10,000. If people are 21-years-old or older and their alleged victims are 16-years-old or younger, they may face between two and four years in county jail, and a maximum fine of $10,000. Furthermore, people who are convicted of unlawful sexual intercourse may also be ordered to register as sex offenders.

Protecting the future

Statutory rape allegations may have life-changing implications for people in California, and elsewhere. Not only do they face the potential legal consequences, but their employment opportunities and personal lives may also suffer. Therefore, those who have been charged with unlawful sexual intercourse may benefit from obtaining legal representation. An attorney may help ensure their rights are upheld, as well as aid them in establishing a strong criminal defense.