A 17-year-old recent graduate of Novato High School has accused her track and field coach (64) of having had a sexual relationship with her whilst she was in school. This case came to the attention of local law enforcement officials due to sexual text messages that the alleged victim’s mother found on her daughter’s cellular phone. The accused has been arrested on charges of statutory rape and on several different charges, including sexual penetration of a minor, oral copulation with a minor, communicating with a minor child for the express purpose of committing a sex offense, arranging a meeting with a minor for sexual purposes, and actually meeting with a minor with the intent of having sexual relations.
California Penal Code 261.5 addresses the crime of illegal sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 18, more commonly referred to as ‘statutory rape.’ This violation of the law is said to be committed when an adult (someone over the age of 18) engages in any type of sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 18. There need not be any force involved in ‘statutory rape,’ there need only be the actual sex act in order for prosecutors to successfully convict. Even minors can be charged with statutory rape, though this is not often done. What this means is that anyone who is the sexual partner of a person under the age of 18 who has sexual intercourse could be charged with rape, even though the sex was entirely consensual.
In California, a conviction for statutory rape comes with dire consequences. It is, in fact, a ‘wobbler,’ meaning that prosecutors assigned to the case must determine whether they will pursue the case as a misdemeanor or a felony. Usually, the age difference between the minor and the adult involved is the key determining factor, the smaller the age difference, the less chance there is of being charged with a felony. However, in situations in which the alleged offender is at least 21 years old (3 years older than the supposed victim), there is a great likelihood that he or she will spend up to 4 years in state prison.