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The Legal Risk Teens Take by Having Underage Sex


As loath as parents here in Dublin may be to admit this, they know that when their teens get into a relationship with a member of the opposite sex, they will be faced with the decision of whether to engage in sexual intercourse or not. While most conversations about teens and sex typically focus on unplanned pregnancies as a consequence, we’d like today’s readers to be aware of another — perhaps more serious — consequence: the possibility of criminal charges.

Here in California, as is the case in other states as well, it is illegal for an adult — a person 18 years of age or older — to engage in sexual intercourse with a minor, which is defined as anyone under the age of 18 years old, according to § 261.5(a) of the California Penal Code. Considered to be rape in these circumstances, the law is not forgiving to individuals accused of this crime. Steep penalties, including fines and the possibility of imprisonment, are assessed along with sex offender registration.

The reason this is important for teens in Dublin to know is that this law is applicable even if both parties are consenting. Considered statutory rape, a couple which engages in intercourse is considered to be breaking the law if one of the partners is a minor and the other is an adult. Depending on the discrepancy in age between partners, penalties can escalate, making the situation more serious in nature.

For those of our readers who don’t know, a sex crime conviction oftentimes comes with a lifetime requirement for sex offender registration. This can be particularly challenging for teens because it’s a requirement that can impact where they live, where they work and where they can go within the state. It’s a fate few parents want for their child, which is why it’s a consequence parents should highlight when talking to their teens about sex.