To legally engage in sexual intimacy with another person, you first have to obtain their consent. However, not every person is capable of giving legal consent.
Those under the influence of drugs and alcohol or with diminished cognitive capacity may not be able to reasonably consent on their own behalf. In fact, individuals who have not yet reached a certain age cannot legally consent under California law.
Those who have intimate relationships with someone below the age of consent run the risk of prosecution for a statutory sex offense. At what age is someone capable of consenting to physical intimacy in California?
California has strict rules
Some states have set a surprisingly low age of consent, but California is not one of them. Technically, someone needs to have reached 18 years of age to be capable of giving consent. Anytime a legal adult engages in sexual activity with a person under the age of 18, they run the risk of violating state law. Depending on the circumstances, the offense could be a felony or a misdemeanor.
However, there is a so-called “Romeo and Juliet clause” included in the age of consent law in California. When two people are very close in age, typically less than three years apart, the offense may be a misdemeanor. The larger the gap in age between the two and the higher the age of the older partner, the more likely they are to face serious penalties, including up to $25,000 in fines.
In scenarios involving two younger people who have a legitimate relationship with one another, judges may be more lenient when considering allegations of a statutory sex offense. Educating yourself about what constitutes a sex crime in California could help you make safer decisions about your closest relationships.