Playlist: Age of Consent Videos
In California, the legal age of consent to have sex is 18 years old. This means that it is a criminal offense for anyone, regardless of their age, to have sexual intercourse with a person age under the age of 18.
Having sex with a minor can result in prosecution for a crime – typically for statutory rape, per Penal Code 261.5.
Thecrime of statutory rape is a California “wobbler” offense. This means that the crime can be charged aseither
- afelonydepending on the facts of the case.
The offense can be punished by up to four years injail or prison.
No “Romeo & Juliet Law” in California
Note thatCalifornia does not have a Romeo and Juliet law. Romeo and Juliet laws prevent the prosecution of persons who engage in consensual sexual activity when:
- both parties are very close in age to one another, and
- both are below the age of consent.
There isone exceptionwhere a minorcan legally havesexual intercourse with an adult. This is when the two parties arelawfully married.
Other Possible Charges for Sex With a Minor
A charge related to statutory rape is the charge oflewd acts with a minor child, under Penal Code 288.PC 288 defines a “lewd act with a minor child” as either:
- touching a child under 14 years old for sexual purposes, or
- causing a child under 14 years old to touch him/herself or someone else for a sexual purpose.
PC 288 also applies to cases where the minor child is 14- or 15 years old if the defendant is at least 10 years older than the child.
Depending on the facts of a case, a conviction oflewd acts with a minor can lead to one year in county jail to life in prison.
Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:
- 1. What is the “age of consent” in California?
- 2. What is statutory rape, per Penal Code 261.5?
- 3. Does statutory rape in California require registration as a sex offender?
- 4. Does California have a “Romeo and Juliet” law?
- 5. Is there any exception where a minor can have sexual relations with an adult?
- 6. Is it legal for an adult to date a minor in California?
- 7. Are there any legal defenses to statutory rape charges?
- 8. What is California Penal Code 288 – lewd acts with a minor child?
The age of consent in California is 18.
1. What is the “age of consent” in California?
18 years of age. Under California law, a person must be at least 18 years of age in order legally to have sex with another person to whom he or she is not married. Having sex with a person under the legal age of consent will subject a person to criminal liability.
Also note that if a person is 18 years of age or older, and he/she has sexual intercoursewith a minor, that person breaks the age of consent law and can be prosecuted for a crime – typically forstatutory rape, per Penal Code 261.5.
“Sexual intercourse” means any sexual penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina (“vaginal intercourse”) or genitalia by the penis. Ejaculation is not required.1
Age of consent laws are meant todeter adultsfrom seeking out underage sex partners. This is because children are generallynot mature enoughto make intelligent and informed decisions regarding the physical and emotional risks of having sex.
The age of consent varies state by state from 16 to 18 years of age across the U.S.
2. What is statutory rape, per Penal Code 261.5?
Under CaliforniaPenal Code 261.5 PC, a “statutory rape”takes place when any person engages in sexual intercourse with a personunder the age of 18.2
The crime of statutory rape is also commonly referred to as “unlawful sex with a minor” or as “unlawful sexual intercourse.”
Statutory rape is a crime regardless of whether the sex was consensual or even initiated by the minor (the supposed “victim” of the crime).3
A statutory rape case is a California “wobbler” offense. This means that the crime can be charged aseithera misdemeanor or a felony depending on the facts of the case.4
Theage differencebetween the defendant and the minor is one of the major factors determining how the crime is tried. If the defendant is 21 or older and the minor is under the age of 16, the penalties are likely to be most severe.
In such a case they can include up to four years in a California state prison.
3. Does statutory rape in California require registration as a sex offender?
A statutory rape charge, or a conviction of the same, does not require sex offender registration under California Penal Code 290 PC.5
Certain related offenses, though, do require the defendant to be on the sex offender registry, including:
- rape, per Penal Code 261, and
- lewd acts with a child, per Penal Code 288.
Now with the passing of California Senate Bill 145 (2020), judges may waive the sex registration requirement for certain defendants convicted under the following penal code subsections if the child was a 14-year-old (or older) and within 10 years of age of the defendant:
- PC 286(b) – sodomy
- PC 287(b) – oral copulation of a child
- PC 289(h) or (i) – penetration by a foreign object
SB 145 is geared toward close-in-age LGBT youth who have consensual oral sex or anal sex. Opponents of the new law claim it promotes pedophilia and sexual abuse.
4. Does California have a “Romeo and Juliet” law?
Californiadoes not have a Romeo and Juliet law. “Romeo and Juliet” laws are also referred to as “close in age exemptions.” The laws prevent the prosecution of young people who engage in consensual sex acts when:
- both parties are very close in age to one another, and
- both are below the age of consent.
An example here is when two people engage in consensual sex and both are 17 years old, or one is 16 years old and the other is 17.
Since there isno Rome and Juliet law in California, it is possible for two people, both under the age of 18, to be prosecuted for statutory rape if they engage in sexual intercourse.
If a minor is lawfully married to an adult, then they may engage in consensual sex.
5. Is there any exception where a minor can have sexual relations with an adult?
There is one exception where a minorcanhave sexual intercourse with an adult. This is when the two parties are married.
Penal Code 261.5astates:
“Unlawful sexual intercourse is an act of sexual intercourse accomplished with a person who isnot the spouseof the perpetrator, if the person is a minor.”
(emphasis added). The language, “not the spouse of the perpetrator,” means that no statutory rape charges will be filed if:
- there is consensual sex between two parties,
- one or more of the persons is below the age of 18, and
- the two parties arelawfully married.
Note that California is one of just a few states thatdoes not have a minimum age for marriage. If a minor decides to marry, however, that person must obtain parental consent and a court order prior to the marriage.
6. Is it legal for an adult to date a minor in California?
While in general, it is legal for an adult to date a minor, it is typically unwise for this to happen.
And, it is illegal for an adult to date a minor if the adult:
- has a criminal record,
- is a sex offender, or
- is a teacher or in a similar position of trust or authority.
Please also note that, based on California law, it is illegal for an adult to do any of the following with a minor he is dating:
- have sex,
- purchase for or share alcohol or cigarettes,
- bring the minor to an R-rated movie, and
- show any pornography.
7. Are there any legal defenses to statutory rape charges?
There are three common legal defenses to any accusations of statutory rape. These are:
- falsely accused– which means the alleged victim misidentified the defendant or lied,
- age of consent– which means both parties that engaged in sexual intercourse were 18 years of age or older, and
- no sexual intercourse– which means that while two persons under 18 may have had an intimate encounter, they did not engage in “sexual intercourse.”
Note that consent is not a defense to statutory rape allegations.6 It is also not a defense that the defendant believed the child was of age.7
In any case, the district attorney has the burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. As long as prosecutors fail to meet this burden, the charge should be dismissed.
8. What is California Penal Code 288 – lewd acts with a minor child?
Penal Code 288 is the California statute that makes it a sex crime for a person to engage in a lewd act with a minor child who is:
- under age 14 years old; or
- 14- or 15 years old and the defendant is at least 10 years older than the child.
The statute defines a “lewd act with a minor child” as either:
- touching a child for sexual purposes, or
- causing a child to touch him/herself or someone else for a sexual purpose.8
Technically, this section applies when the victim is anyone under age 16.9 But because most prosecutions under this section involve children under 14, this crime is often referred to as:
- lewd acts with a child under 14,
- lewd acts on a minor under 14, or
- acts of lewd and lascivious conduct.
The penalties for a violation ofPC 288depend on a combination of factors, including:
- the age of the child,
- whether the lewd act was accomplished by force, violence, duress, or threats,
- whether there was a pattern of lewd acts, and
- if the child was 14 or 15, the age of the defendant.
Depending on the facts of the case, a conviction of lewd acts with a minor can lead to:
- imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year, or
- up to life in the California state prison.
For additional help…
Call us for help. We have offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and throughout the state.
If you or someone you know has been accused of having unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. We can be reached 24/7.
To learn about the age of consent laws in Nevada, please see our article on “Age of Consent” Laws in Nevada (NRS 200.364). To learn about the age of consent laws in Colorado, please see our article on Age of Consent in Colorado.
- Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions (“CALCRIM”) 1072.
- California Penal Code 261.5 PC. See also People v. Hernandez (1964) 61 Cal. 2d 529; People v. Tobias (2001) 25 Cal. 4th 327.
- See same.
- See same; also see our article on sexual assault / sexual battery (PC 243.4).
- California Penal Code290 PC.
- See, for example, People v. Soto, (2011) 51 Cal. 4th 229, 245 P.3d 410.
- See People v. Olsen, (1984) 36 Cal. 3d 638, 205 Cal. Rptr. 492, 685 P.2d 52 (1984).
- California Penal Code 287 PC.
- California Penal Code 288c1 PC.
In the State of California, the age of consent is 18. Thus, it is a criminal act to engage in sex with anyone under 18, and any person who does so could be charged with statutory rape under California Penal Code 261.5. In California, the legal age of consent is 18 years old.Has the age of consent always been 18 in the US? ›
The ages of consent were raised across the U.S. during the late 19th century and the early 20th century. By 1920, 26 states had an age of consent at 16, 21 states had an age of consent at 18, and one state (Georgia) had an age of consent at 14. Small adjustments to these laws occurred after 1920.What can you legally do at 18 in California? ›
Enter into binding contracts - for example, leases, opening bank accounts and applying for loans (of course, to obtain the loan, you may still need a co-signer). Buy or sell property, such as real estate and stock. Marry without written consent of parents or guardian. Sue or be sued.What is the legal age of consent across most of the United States? ›
The age of consent in California is 18 years old.Is it OK for a 18 to date a 16 in California? ›
Can an 18 year old date a 16 year old in California without facing criminal charges? (PC 261.5) The answer is that so long as the couple do not engage in sexual intercourse or oral copulation then they will likely not be prosecuted.Can a 18 year old date a 15 year old in California? ›
In a Nutshell: Sex between an 18 year-old and a 15 year-old is illegal in California, meaning any touching of “private parts” of either, even with consent of both parties (and perhaps even the parents of each teenager) is illegal in California because the age of consent is 18.When did 18 become the legal age of consent? ›
In 1929, age of consent for marriage (sexual intercourse) was raised to 16 years old for both, females and males. In 1970, the age of majority was lowered from 21 years old to 18 years old, making it legal for males and females 18 years old and older to marry without parental consent.Why was 18 chosen as the age of consent? ›
State laws determine the legal age, which varies from one state to the next. However, the minimum legal age is set at 18 in practically all states. At this age, a person is capable of managing their own affairs and assuming responsibility for the choices they make.How many places is the age of consent 18? ›
Thirty-one states set the age of consent as 16, eight set it as 17, and eleven set it as 18. Twenty-six states have "Romeo and Juliet" laws, or close-in-age laws, legalizing sexual activity between underaged participants if they are close enough to one another in age. The maximum age gaps in these laws vary by state.What happens when I turn 18? ›
Eighteen-year-olds can own property outright, vote in an election, serve on a jury, get married, get a tattoo, gamble, and enter into binding contracts all without the oversight or consent of their parents or guardians.
- To vote in state and local elections.
- To serve on a jury in court.
- To marry without parental consent.
- To make a will.
- To work for pay.
- To obtain a driver's license.
- To be able to examine your credit record.
In California, the age of consent is 18 years old. This means that engaging in sexual activity with an individual under the age of 18 is generally considered illegal, regardless of the age difference between the parties involved.What is the lowest age of consent in the world? ›
The lowest minimum age is 14 years, set in seven Member States: Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Italy and Portugal. The highest is set at 18 years – in Malta. About half of the Member States apply different age limits to sexual acts between young persons.What is the lowest ever age of consent? ›
According to reports, Nigeria has the lowest age of consent across the world at 11 years which is followed by Angola at 12 years. On the other hand, in countries like the United Kingdom the age of consent is 16, in Greece and France it is 15 and 14 in Germany, and Italy.Can 18 and 16 be together? ›
Yes, it is illegal to have a sexual relationship with a minor. In California, it is illegal for someone over the age of 18 to have sexual intercourse with someone under the age of 18. Suppose someone under 18 participates willingly. In that case, the sexual act is still considered illegal under the law.What is Japan's age of consent? ›
The amendments will also criminalize sex with children under the age of 16 by raising the legal age of consent from 13. Japan's current age of consent has remained unchanged since its enactment in 1907 and is one of the lowest among developed nations.Can a 18-year-old date a 25 year old? ›
They might think that the older person is taking advantage of the younger person, or that the younger person is in the relationship to get something from the older person—usually money or status. Can a 25-year-old date an 18-year-old? Legally, yes, but it might not be the best idea.Is it okay for a 17 to date a 18? ›
This is because the age of consent is 16. Therefore, an 18-year-old (or someone older) can legally date and have sexual relations with a person who is 17. Of course, if the act was not consensual, it would be illegal.Can I date someone who's 18 if I'm 15? ›
No, it's not illegal for a 15-year-old to date an 18-year-old. States do not impose laws on the ages that you can date.Is 18 and 16 a bad age difference? ›
A 16-year-old dating an 18-year-old is not a big age difference. It's only 2 years apart in age and a 16-year-old isn't a child equivalent to a 5-year-old, and an 18-year-old isn't an adult equivalent to a middle-aged man. They're both developmentally adolescents in high school.
Lowering the age of sexual consent would make it distinctly easier for appropriate sex education to be provided to children and young people to enable them to make wiser decisions. It would also make it easier to provide sexual health services to people of this age without the fear of conniving in illegal activity.Can a 30 year old date a 17 year old in Texas? ›
Is it illegal to date a minor in Texas? While it is not against the law for an adult to DATE a minor in Texas, it is illegal to have sex with someone who is 14 to 17-years-old if you are more than 3 years older then them, even if the sex is consensual. Breaking this law is considered statutory rape.Why is the age of consent 13 in Japan? ›
Age of consent in Japan
It has been 13 years since 1907 when the Penal Code of Japan set the age limit. At that time, the average life expectancy of women was 44 years, and it was common for women to marry and have children at a young age. In society at that time, 13 was regarded as a reasonable age of consent.
Who is a child? The answer to this question in international and domestic law is clear: a child is anyone under the age of 18.How did age of consent start? ›
An age of consent statute first appeared in secular law in 1275 in England as part of the rape law. The statute, Westminster 1, made it a misdemeanor to "ravish" a "maiden within age," whether with or without her consent.What was the first age of consent? ›
The age of consent first appeared in England in 1275 regarding 'maidens of age,' which was about 12 years old. Later, in 1576, the law changed and it became a felony to abuse any woman under the age of 10, although less severe penalties occurred if the victim was 10 or 11 years of age.Is 18 legal everywhere? ›
Most states have set the age of 18 as the age of majority. However, Nebraska (§43-2101) and Alabama have set 19 as the age of majority. Mississippi is the only state which has set the age of majority at 21 (S1-3-27).Where is the highest age of consent? ›
The highest Age of Consent in the world is 21 in Bahrain.
The second-highest age of consent is 20 in South Korea, while the majority of other countries have an Age of Consent between 16 and 18.
Enter into binding contracts. Buy or sell property, including real estate and stock. Marry without the written consent of a parent (or guardian) and a judge. Sue or be sued in their own names.Am I over the age of 18 if I'm 18? ›
Yes, because technically you are over 18. You become 18 years old at the exact time of your birth. After that, you are “over” 18, as in 18 and 1 second, or 18 and 360 days.
No, it's a federal offense to tamper with any mail that's not addressed to you. Opening mail with anyone else's name on it is a federal offense regardless of the address on it.What does the law say about turning 18? ›
What Changes When You Turn 18? Being 18 means your child can purchase lottery tickets, buy fireworks, own a credit card, and get married—all without your involvement. They can sue and be sued in civil court, serve on a jury, be an organ donor, and register to vote.What is the lowest age of consent in California? ›
The age of consent is also the point at which a child can consent to engage in sexual intercourse without the act being considered statutory rape. The age of consent with regard to sexual relations in California is 18 (California Penal Code 261.5).What are the exceptions to the age of consent in California? ›
There is one exception where a minor can legally have sexual intercourse with an adult. This is when the two parties are lawfully married. A charge related to statutory rape is the charge of lewd acts with a minor child, under Penal Code 288.What is California's legal age? ›
Laws Related to Legal Age in California
California's legal ages laws, for instance, establish that an individual reaches the "age of majority" at 18 years old. The laws also state that children must generally be 14 years of age or older to be eligible for emancipation.
The Age of Consent in Jamaica is 16 years old. The age of consent is the minimum age at which an individual is old enough to legally consent to participation in sexual activities. Therefore, individuals under the age of 16 cannot legally consent to sexual activity.What is the age of consent in Mexico? ›
|State||Minimum age of consent (sex with persons under this age is always illegal)||Age at which there are no restrictions (sex with persons below this age is not illegal per se, but it is still open to prosecution)|
|Mexico City (Former DF)||12||18|
The Age of Consent in China is 14 years old. The age of consent is the minimum age at which an individual is considered legally old enough to consent to participation in sexual activity.Is it OK for a 17 to date a 18 year old? ›
This is because the age of consent is 16. Therefore, an 18-year-old (or someone older) can legally date and have sexual relations with a person who is 17. Of course, if the act was not consensual, it would be illegal.Is the age of consent 16 or 18 in the US? ›
As the first column in Table 1 shows, the age of consent varies by state. In the majority of states (34), it is 16 years of age. In the remaining states, the age of consent is either 17 or 18 years old (6 and 11 states, respectively). Note: Some states have marital exemptions.
The lowest age of consent is in Nigeria (11) followed by the Philippines and Angola (12). The age of consent is 13 in four countries – Japan, Niger, Comoros and Burkina Faso.Can a 17 and 18 year old kiss? ›
Does kissing count as statutory rape? No. Statutory rape is exclusive to sexual intercourse. An adult kissing a minor may still be illegal, however, depending on the nature of the kiss.Can a 18 year old date a 25 year old? ›
They might think that the older person is taking advantage of the younger person, or that the younger person is in the relationship to get something from the older person—usually money or status. Can a 25-year-old date an 18-year-old? Legally, yes, but it might not be the best idea.Can a 18 year old date a 19 year old? ›
Local laws will dictate what is considered legal age, or legal circumstances allowing intimacy. It may not allow sex with a minor through parental consent. At nineteen, you will be charged with statutory rape, if the law doesn't recognize parental permission. That can be a multi-year prison sentence for you.Can a 40 year old sleep with a 17 year old? ›
California does not set a minimum age for someone to date within the state legally. However, if an adult has sexual relations with a minor, the adult can be charged with statutory rape.Is the age of consent in Japan really 13? ›
The amendments will also criminalize sex with children under the age of 16 by raising the legal age of consent from 13. Japan's current age of consent has remained unchanged since its enactment in 1907 and is one of the lowest among developed nations.Why is Japan's age of consent so low? ›
In society at that time, 13 was regarded as a reasonable age of consent. In addition, the legal marriageable age was 15 back then. Therefore, the age of 13, which is two years younger than 15, was considered sensible. This explains why the age of consent is 13 in Japan.What is the age of consent in Russia? ›
Africa: The legal age of consent in Africa for sexual activity varies from 12 to 21, ranging from age 12 in Sudan to age 21 in Cameroon and Niger. North America: The legal age of consent in North America relating to sexual activity varies by jurisdiction.