What You Need to Know About Romeo and Juliet Laws in California

In California, there are no exceptions for statutory rape, which is defined as an adult who engages in sexual intercourse with a minor. Here’s everything you need to know about the absence of statutory rape exceptions, or Romeo and Juliet laws, in California.

Some states have Romeo and Juliet exceptions to statutory rape, which may apply if the sexual encounter was consensual between an adult and a minor, with an age difference of three years at most. This type of exception, or any other kind for that matter, does not apply in California. This means that any sexual encounter between an adult and a minor, even if it was consensual and nonviolent, can result in statutory rape charges.

Related: Difference Between Sexual Assault, Sexual Abuse, and Rape in California

Statutory Rape Laws in California

According to California Penal Code Section 261.5, it is against the law for any person above the age of 21 to engage in sexual activity with someone under 16 years of age. Any person who engages in such behavior will be guilty of a felony or misdemeanor, and can face up to 4 years of prison time.

Related: California Statutory Rape Laws

Further Consequences

If an adult has sexual relations with a minor less than two years younger than themself, they are subject to a civil penalty fine of up to $2000. If the minor is at least two years younger than the adult, the fine will be up to $5000, and if the minor is at least three years younger than the adult, they will face a fine up to $10,000. If the minor is under the age of 16, and the adult is over the age of 21, then the adult will face up to $25,000 in fines.

Additional Information

The district attorney has the autonomy to bring action to recover civil penalties from the amounts collected from each case. The amount equal to the costs pursuing the action will be left with the treasurer where the judgment was made, and the remainder will be given to the Underage Pregnancy Prevention Fund, which was created by the California State Treasury in hopes to prevent underage pregnancy upon the appropriation of the law. While the defendant’s ability to pay is taken into account, the judge can add up to a $70 fine against any defendant in this type of case who does not pay their fine.

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