When a sexual assault or other sex crime occurs, understanding the law is important. Criminal and civil laws are different, and victims who are harmed by an act of sexual assault or violence may be able to file a civil lawsuit regardless of whether a prosecutor moves forward with a criminal case.
Statutory rape is one situation where an abuser could face both criminal and civil cases. California Penal Code Section 261.5 defines unlawful sexual intercourse to include: “an act of sexual intercourse accomplished with a person who is not the spouse of the perpetrator, if the person is a minor.” Statutory rape laws in California make it a crime for anyone over 18 to have consensual sex with someone under 18. There are no exceptions, although California does have a Romeo and Juliet law.
What is the Romeo and Juliet Law in California?
Romeo and Juliet laws recognize the fact that sometimes a person turns 18 but has a romantic partner who has not yet reached the legal age of consent. Romeo and Juliet laws carve out an exception to the serious crime of statutory rape. In some states, a Romeo and Juliet law will allow an adult to engage in sexual behaviors with someone who is just under the age of consent. For example, an 18-year-old would not be charged with statutory rape for having consensual sex with someone who is 16 or 17.
Romeo and Juliet laws in California only reduce the penalties, they do not absolve an adult of legal responsibility for having sex with someone who is underage. California’s so-called “Romeo and Juliet” law is found in 261.5(b), which states: “Any person who engages in an act of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor who is not more than three years older or three years younger than the perpetrator, is guilty of a misdemeanor.” The specific penalties vary depending upon how close in age the victim was to the adult who committed the statutory rape offense.
Although Romeo and Juliet laws do not absolve defendants, they can result in less justice for victims of statutory rape because the penalties defendants face are much less serious than for other types of sex crimes. However, a victim can pursue a civil lawsuit to obtain compensation from a sexual abuser, as well as against individuals and organizations who facilitated the abuse or allowed it to occur through their negligence.
A civil lawsuit is intended to obtain compensation for a plaintiff who has been harmed by an act of sexual assault. The standard of proof is lower in these cases, as a plaintiff must only show unlawful sexual activity occurred by a preponderance of the evidence. This means victims of statutory rape can recover monetary payment for losses if they can prove more likely than not that the defendant’s unlawful conduct was the cause of harm.
A Long Beach Sexual Assault Lawyer Can Help
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
Under California’s Romeo and Juliet laws, sexual assault with someone underage is always a crime. Victims can pursue both criminal and civil action against the assailant. A Long Beach personal injury lawyer can help.
Call the Law Office of Michael D. Waks at 888-394-1174 or use the convenient online contact form to schedule a free consultation to learn more about your legal rights after sexual assault occurs.
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