October 5, 2022 By Stephen Klarich

Fraud Can Be a Sex Crime in California

Under California Penal Code Section 261, rape is the crime of using force, threats, or fraud to engage in non-consensual sexual intercourse with another. While rape is typically associated with force or threats, there is a third lesser-known crime of rape by fraud. 

What Is Rape By Fraud? 

Fraud is defined as wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain. Therefore, rape by fraud occurs when a defendant deceives another person regarding his/her identity in order to have sexual intercourse. In California, a prosecutor must prove the following elements in order to convict someone of rape by fraud: 

  • The defendant had sexual intercourse with another person; 
  • The person submitted to the intercourse because he/she believed the defendant was someone he/she knew, other than the defendant; AND 
  • The defendant tricked, lied to, or concealed information from the person, intending to make him/her believe that the defendant was someone he/she knew, while intending to hide the defendant’s own identity. 

People v. Morales 

Prior to 2013, the definition of rape by fraud was limited to acts of sexual intercourse where the victim submitted under the belief that the person committing the act was the victim’s spouse. However, this definition was expanded after a case called People v. Morales. 

Fraud Can Be a Sex Crime in California

Julio Morales entered a sleeping woman’s dark room and began intercourse. When the woman woke up, she initially believed Morales to be her boyfriend who was having sex with her. After realizing that he was in fact someone other than her boyfriend, she tried unsuccessfully to push him away and subsequently pressed charges against him. On appeal, Morales contested that rape by fraud only occurs when the victim is married to person being impersonated. Because the victim and her partner were unmarried in this case, the court reversed Morales’s conviction and remanded for a new trial. 

To avoid a repeat of this case, the California legislature signed two bills into law, Assembly Bill 65 and Senate Bill 59. Both bills expanded the definition of rape and other sex crimes committed by fraud to include situations where the victim submits under the belief that the perpetrator is someone known to the victim other than the perpetrator. This includes the victim’s cohabitant, fiancé, or someone with whom the victim has a dating relationship. 

Penalties for Rape by Fraud 

The penalties for rape by fraud are the same as for rape committed through force or threats. Because rape is charged as a felony in California, the punishments are severe. If you are convicted of rape by fraud, you may face: 

  • Up to $10,000 in fines 
  • 3, 5, or 8 years in state prison 
  • Sex offender registration 
  • A strike under California’s Three Strikes Law 

Additionally, if the victim was under the age of 18, you may face sentence enhancements of up to 13 years in prison. 

Contact Wallin & Klarich Today 

If you have been accused of rape by fraud, contact Wallin & Klarich as soon as possible to see how we can help. With 40+ years of experience, Wallin & Klarich is your best choice amongst Southern California criminal defense firms. Our attorneys have helped thousands of clients clear their names and restore their reputations after false accusations, and we have the skills and resources to help you as well. You can place your trust in us. 

With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, Torrance, West Covina, Los Angeles, and San Diego, you are sure to find an available and convenient attorney near you. 

Discover how our team can assist you. Contact us today, toll-free at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free consultation with a skilled defense attorney.

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