William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is a literary classic. The tragic tale of two teenagers from warring families who fall in love is taught in many high schools throughout the country.

Yet, the tale of underage love celebrated in Shakespeare’s play is one that is illegal in California. That is because statutory rape laws under California Penal Code Section 261.5 apply not only to adults who engage in sexual intercourse with a minor, but also to situations where both participants are under the age of 18.

Statutory Rape in California (PC 261.5)

Under California Penal Code Section 261.5, the crime of statutory rape is “an act of sexual intercourse accomplished with a person who is not the spouse of the perpetrator, if the person is a minor.”

Notice that only the age of the victim matters according to PC 261.5, not the age of the perpetrator. This means that two minors who have sex with each other could both be charged with statutory rape. The only exception is where the minor is married to the person with whom he or she engaged in sexual intercourse.

Statutory rape is a wobbler offense in California, which means it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances of the case. A misdemeanor carries a sentence of up to 364 days in jail while a felony is punishable by up to three years in jail.

What are Romeo and Juliet Laws?

states have laws that allow adults who are in relationships with minors to engage in sexual intercourse. These laws are often referred to as “Romeo and Juliet” laws.

example, the legal age of consent in Texas is 17. However, Texas has Romeo and Juliet laws in place. Under these laws, you cannot be convicted of statutory rape if the alleged victim is 14 years old or older, you are three years or less older than the alleged victim, and you were in a consensual sexual relationship with the alleged victim.

California has partial Romeo and Juliet laws in place. These laws prevent you from being charged with felony statutory rape if you are no more than three years in age apart from the alleged victim. However, you could still face misdemeanor statutory rape charges under these circumstances.

Additionally, Romeo and Juliet laws in California do not apply to anyone who abuses a position of authority, such as teachers who engage in sexual acts with students.

Speak to a Statutory Rape Defense Attorney at Wallin & Klarich Today

If you are facing charges of statutory rape under PC 261.5, you have a serious legal challenge ahead of you. That is why you should speak to an experienced statutory rape defense attorney as soon as possible.

At Wallin & Klarich, we have been successfully defending clients facing statutory rape charges for more than 35 years. Our skilled rape defense lawyers have the knowledge, skill and experience necessary to help you obtain the best possible outcome in your case. Let us help you now.

With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, San Diego, West Covina, Torrance and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich statutory rape attorney available to help you no matter where you are located.

Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.

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