What is “statutory rape”?

The age of legal consent for sexual intercourse in California is 18 years old. The crime of “statutory rape” (more correctly called “unlawful sexual intercourse” today) is sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 18. Even if the “victim” was a willing, consenting partner, if they are under 18, it is still a crime. Even if both participants are under 18, it is still a crime! Whether the charge is a felony or a misdemeanor depends on the age difference between the two people having sex. If the age difference is less than 3 years, it is a misdemeanor [Penal Code section 261.5(b)]. If the age difference is more than 3 years, it can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor [Penal Code section 261.5(c)].

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