Romeo and Juliet Law in California | Age of Consent

In California, the age of consent is 18 years old, meaning it is illegal for adults (18 or older) to engage in intercourse with minors (under 18), even if it’s consensual.

Statutory Offense in California

Statutory offense in California is defined by Penal Code Section 261.5, prohibiting intercourse with a minor under 18. Here are some key points:

  • Statutory offense can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony (“wobbler” offense) based on case specifics.
  • Adults over 21 engaging with minors under 16 face stricter penalties, including up to 4 years in prison.
  • Unlike some states, California does not have a Romeo and Juliet law for minors close in age.
  • Exceptions exist for legally married minors but not for consensual relationships with adults.

Penalties for Statutory Offense

  • Misdemeanor penalties: Up to 1 year in county jail, a fine up to $1,000, and probation.
  • Felony penalties: 16 months to 3 years in state prison, a fine up to $10,000, and mandatory counseling.
  • Harsher penalties apply if the adult is over 21 and the minor under 16.

Defenses to Statutory Offense Charges

Potential defenses include:

  • False accusation by the minor.
  • No intercourse occurred.
  • Reasonable belief the minor was of legal age based on their actions or statements.

Legal Considerations

  • Dating a minor is legal in California, but any activity is prosecuted as statutory offense.
  • Providing drugs, alcohol, tobacco, or showing pornography to minors is illegal and can lead to separate criminal charges.
  • Adults in positions of authority over minors, such as teachers, cannot date them due to the potential for abuse of power.

It’s crucial for adults to understand and abide by these laws to avoid serious legal consequences.

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