The sex crime of statutory rape is severe and could cause a person to go to jail or prison and have a criminal record that is very hard to get off and very hard to get around as you try to search for jobs. So, people are looking for defenses if they can find them when it comes to these statutory rape cases under California Penal Code 261.5.
The first premise you have to start with if you're charged with statutory rape in Los Angeles, California, is that you cannot have sex with or have any sexual contact with somebody who is under the age of 18.
Age of Consent
So, if you're doing that, you already have a problem because it's against the law to do that. In California, the age of consent is 18 years old. Where the defenses come in is you know whether or not the person is under 18. The fact that the other person consented to you having sex with them doesn't matter.
If they're underage, even if they consent or they come on to you, it doesn't matter. Even if they lie to you at some point and tell you that they're over the age of 18, but you find out later that they are under the age of 18 and you have sex with them, you're going to be guilty technically of statutory rape.
So, the question becomes, what if you don't know that the person is under the age of 18 and you have sex with them? Is the mistake of age a defense? And the answer is yes. Of course, they're going to look at the facts and circumstances surrounding you having sexual contact with that person.
They're also going to look at whether or not that person looks like they're under the age of 18. If you're having sex with a 15 or 16-year-old, who looks like they're 15 or 16, your claiming that you thought they were 18 or older is idiotic.
You can't just say they were on a website that was 18 or older. Younger people can go on those websites, so that's not going to be a lawful defense to a statutory rape case in one of the Los Angeles courts.
Fake ID and Lying About Age on the Internet
Now, if, on the other hand, a person looks like they were 18 or over and they were representing themselves as 18 or over – that's a different scenario. I had a case recently where the other person had a fake ID that showed they were over 18, and they said they were over 18. They delivered my client the fake ID, that's it. That's an excellent defense to a statutory rape case.
Often, people come in contact with somebody on an age 18 or older website. They start talking to them.
Maybe they send pictures back and forth. Perhaps they start sexting back and forth, and at some point, the other party tells them when they're all excited and interested in them that they're under the age of 18 – at that point, all conversation needs to cease because now you have yourself in the wrong position.
You've just been told the person under 18, and if you continue to mess around with them and try to say I didn't know for sure – that won't work. So, you have to cease all contact with them at that point, and now, if law enforcement finds out about it, you could at least say they were on an 18 and older site.
They told me they were over the age of 18. I didn't see anything in the photographs or the text that would make me think that they were under 18 – once I found out that they were telling me they were under 18, I took no chances. I immediately ceased contact with them and didn't do anything else. I never met with them.
You're probably good at assuming there's no other evidence against that. So again, when you're talking about legal defenses to statutory rape in Los Angeles, you're talking about common sense.
You're talking about the circumstances. You're talking about what evidence the prosecutors can bring to bear to prove that you knew or reasonably should have known that the other party was under 18. Number one, and number two, they have to prove that you had sex with them in order to get you for statutory rape.
What Are the Common Mistakes?
There are some common mistakes people make when they are being investigated or charged with statutory rape. This is a grave crime because it is a stigma you don't want to have on your criminal record being convicted of statutory rape. Some common mistakes I see people making are the following:
- Sending text messages or emails that admit guilt. Whether it be that you had sex with the underage individual, even if you're claiming you didn't know they were underage, but you just gave the police and prosecutors one of the elements necessary in a statutory rape case, which is to prove you had sex with the individual involved.
- The other element has to do with the age – that you knew or reasonably should have known under the circumstances that the person was under the age of 18 and you had sex with them anyway. You don't want to provide any information in any form that can be used against you.
- Another common mistake is people talking to the police. They give the police information. They answer the police's questions. They think they will somehow talk out of the problem, a common mistake that puts them in a much worse position. Run everything through your attorney.
I have you come in. We review precisely what happened – whether the allegations are true or false – and get a game plan for handling everything. I deal with the police. I get all of the information and review the discovery in the case, and then we decide what moves we will make to best protect your rights, freedom, and reputation in these cases.
So, if you're in this scenario, I suggest not talking to law enforcement. Get before a criminal defense attorney at the Hedding Law Firm quickly. Give them all the information. Be clear, concise, and accurate, and let them help you deal with this matter – do damage control and guide you through it.