California Statutory Rape FAQ


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1: What is the legal age of consent to have sexual intercourse in California?

2. What is the California statutory rape law?

3. Is it legal for two minors to have sexual intercourse?

4. Is it OK to have oral sex with someone under the age of 18?

5. If convicted of "Unlawful Sexual Intercourse, will I be required to register as a sex offender?

6. If convicted of "Oral Copulation" will I be required to register as a sex offender?

7. Who is required by law to report the crime of "Unlawful sexual intercourse"?

8. Can anyone report statutory rape?

9. How long can a person wait to report statutory rape?

10. What's the big deal and all the attention to statutory rape?

1. Q: What is the legal age of consent to have sexual intercourse in California?
    A: 18 years old. This means sexual contact with a minor under the age of 18 is illegal in the state of California even if the minor says it is consensual.
2. Q: What is the California statutory rape law?
    A: The California statutory rape law is titled "Unlawful Sexual Intercourse" Section 261.5 California Penal code.

3. Q: Is it legal for two minors to have sexual intercourse? Top of page
    A: No. Sexual contact while under the age of 18 is not legal. Depending on the age of the parties involved and whether or not there are repeat violations involved, it would either go to juvenile court or, under certain situations a juvenile court judge may recommend the case be moved to adult court. If the violation is under 261.5, it is a misdemeanor offense.

4. Q: Is it OK to have oral sex with someone under the age of 18? Top of page
    A: No. It is not legal. Depending on the circumstances, a felony conviction under this violation may require mandatory sexual offender registration for life. Complete Section - California Penal Code Section 288a "Partial clip of the law" (b) ... any person who participates in an act of oral copulation with another person who is under 18 years of age shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison, or in a county jail for a period of not more than one year. 2) ... any person over the age of 21 years who participates in an act of oral copulation with another person who is under 16 years of age is guilty of a felony. (c) (1) Any person who participates in an act of oral copulation with another person who is under 14 years of age and more than 10 years younger than he or she shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for three, six, or eight years. In the case of a minor with another minor, the same laws apply; however, they are handled in a juvenile court setting unless a judge recommends adult court.


Sex Offender Registration
5. Q: If convicted of "Unlawful Sexual Intercourse" will I be required to register as a sex offender? Top of page
    A: No. If convicted of violating 261.5 Unlawful Sexual Intercourse, misdemeanor or felony, you will not be required to register as a sexual offender in the state of California. If you move to another state jurisdiction, you may be required to register as a sex offender for this violation. Contact the chief of police in the city you want to reside to inquire as to the sex offender registration status of your California conviction.
Respectively, in the state of California under section 290 (2)(D)(iii)(II) a person convicted in another state of an offense similar to one of the following offenses who is required to register in the state of conviction shall not be required to register in California unless the out-of-state offense contains all of the elements of a register able California offense described in subparagraph (A): (aa) Indecent exposure, pursuant to Section 314. (ab) Unlawful sexual intercourse, pursuant to Section 261.5. (ac) Incest, pursuant to Section 285. (ad) Sodomy, pursuant to Section 286, or oral copulation, pursuant to Section 288a, provided that the offender notifies the Department of Justice that the sodomy or oral copulation conviction was for conduct between consenting adults, as described in subparagraph (G) and the department is able, upon the exercise of reasonable diligence, to verify that fact.
Complete Section - California Penal Code Section 290-294

6. Q: If convicted of "Oral Copulation" will I be required to register as a sex offender? Top of page
    A: Possibly. If the minor is under 16 years of age and the actor is over 21 years of age, this would be a felony and mandatory sex offender registration may be required persuant to California penal code 290.


Mandatory Reporting Laws
7. Q: Who is required by law to report the crime of "Unlawful sexual intercourse"? Top of page
    A: Many professionals including medical staff, teachers, administrators, coaches, doctors etc... are mandated by law to report reasonable knowledge or suspicion of "Unlawful sexual intercourse" or any types of sexual or physical abuse. These laws are called "Mandatory Reporting Laws." Under the California Child Abuse and Neglect reporting act, many professionals must, by law, report suspected abuses and violations to law enforcement, or risk criminal prosecution for failure to report. These professionals include, but are not limited to, school teachers, public employees, medical or hospital staff, mental health professionals, clergy, and many more...(the list is substantial.)The purpose of these laws are to protect children from abuse and neglect. "Partial clip of the law" California Penal code 11165.1 As used in this article, "sexual abuse" means sexual assault or sexual exploitation as defined by the following: (a) "Sexual assault" means conduct in violation of one or more of the following sections:
  • Section 261 (rape), subdivision (d) of
  • Section 261.5 (statutory rape)
  • Section 264.1 (rape in concert)
  • Section 285 (incest)
  • Section 286 (sodomy), subdivision (a) or (b), or paragraph (1) of subdivision (c) of
  • Section 288 (lewd or lascivious acts upon a child)
  • Section 288a (oral copulation)
  • Section 289 (sexual penetration), or
  • Section 647.6 (child molestation).
Professionals Required to Report Citation: Penal Code §§ 11166; 11165.7
  • Teachers, teacher's assistants, administrative officers, certificated pupil personnel employees of any public or private school
  • Administrators and employees of public or private day camps, youth centers, youth recreation programs, or youth organizations
  • Employees of childcare institutions, including, but not limited to, foster parents, group home personnel, and personnel of residential care facilities
  • Social workers, probation officers, or parole officers
  • Any person who is an administrator or a counselor in a child abuse prevention program in any public or private school
  • District attorney investigators, peace officers, firefighters, except for volunteer firefighters
  • Physicians, surgeons, psychiatrists, psychologists, dentists, licensed nurses, dental hygienists, optometrists, marriage counselors, family and child counselors, clinical social workers
  • Emergency medical technicians I or II or paramedics
  • State or county public health employees
  • Coroners or medical examiners
  • Commercial film and photographic print processors
  • Child visitation monitors
  • Animal control officers or humane society officers
  • Clergy members, which includes priests, ministers, rabbis, religious practitioners, or similar functionary of a church, temple, or recognized denomination or organization
  • Any custodian of records of a clergy member
  • Employees or volunteers of Court Appointed Special Advocate programs
Reporting by Other Persons Citation: Penal Code § 11166 Any other person who reasonably suspects that a child is a victim of abuse or neglect may report. Privileged Communications Citation: Penal Code § 11166 Only the clergy-penitent privilege is permitted. Complete Section - California Penal Code Section 11164-11174.3
8. Q: Can anyone report statutory rape? Top of page
    A: Yes, anyone can file a report. You can report any knowledge of Unlawful Sexual Contact with a minor to local Law Enforcement or to a District Attorney's office.
9. Q: How long can a person wait to report statutory rape? Top of page
    A: The statute of limitations will depend on the seriousness of the violation. No matter what, all cases are treated individually and if someone has committed a crime against you, you should report it to authorities. It is up to a District attorney to determine the nature of the charges (if any) and how the statute of limitation laws apply to your case.
  • Violation of Penal Code section 261.5(b) is a misdemeanor and has a one year statute of limitations.
  • Violation of Penal Code section 261.5(c) can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor and has a three year statute of limitations.
  • Violation of Penal Code section 261.5(d) is a straight felony and has a three year statute of limitations.
These statutes of limitations start running from the date of offense, regardless of when the crime was reported. There are other Penal Code sections tolling the statutes of limitations of certain sex crimes against minors where the statute of limitations begins running after the age of 18. This does not apply to charges under Penal Code 261.5 for statutory rape. It does apply to violent sexual assaults and sexual abuse of minors.
10. Q: What's the big deal and all the attention to statutory rape? Top of page
    A: Recognizing the high incidence of teenagers impregnated by adult males and the negative impact of these young, fatherless families on society, California initiated the Statutory Rape Vertical Prosecution Program in 1995. The program strengthened law enforcement's ability to prosecute adult men who have sex with teenage girls - minors, under the law. Providing for higher rates of conviction, the vertical prosecution program allows the same prosecutor to follow a specific case all the way through the judicial process.
  • At the time of this initiative, the state of California had the highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation
  • More than 75% of all births to high school aged mothers are fathered by adult males.
  • Boys under 18 years of age account for less than 1/2 of births to teen mothers while men over the age of 24 are responsible for more than 50%
  • Men over the age of 20 are responsible for 5 times as many births among junior high school girls than males under the age of 20
  • On an average day, 76 teenage girls under the age of 17 give birth in California
  • The rate of sexually transmitted disease among teenage girls is twice that of teenage boys.
  • This all translates into a tremendous drain on the welfare and medical resources statewide
  • In 1993, the cost for births to teens 17 years of age or younger in California was more than 140 million dollars.
California statistic source San Mateo County District Attorney.
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