Guide For Navigating Rape Charges1

Last Modified: January 22, 2024

Rape charges are serious. Our top rated attorneys can help you navigate your case. View our guide for defense.

Los Angeles Rape Attorney

A person accused of rape in Los Angeles has a serious problem. After murder, rape is one of the most publicized crimes in the local media. Many neighbors, family and friends will likely learn of the charges.

A conviction for rape in California leads to years in state prison. It also means registration for life as a sex offender. Yet, many innocent people are accused of rape. Those people need experienced Los Angeles rape attorney to defend them.

A person charged with rape, or who is being investigated for rape, should hire a Los Angeles rape attorney as soon as possible to protect their rights and lay the groundwork for a successful defense against the rape charges.

What is a Rape in California?

California Penal Code 261 PC defines rape as when:

  • The penetrator has sexual intercourse with the victim;
  • The victim did not consent to the sexual intercourse;
  • The penetrator used force, violence, duress, fear of bodily injury, menacing, retribution or fraud to make the victim have sexual intercourse.

We should note that until recently, there was a separate section of the penal code that dealt with spousal rape (California Penal Code 262 PC). However, the legislature repealed that section in October 2022. Now spousal rapes are handled as rapes under Penal Code 261.

The question of whether the victim consented to the sexual assault is often present in rape prosecutions. In order to convict someone of rape in California, the prosecutor must prove that the victim did not consent to the sexual intercourse at the time the sexual intercourse occurred.

Therefore, a victim could conceivably indicate at some point that she was willing to have intercourse. However, she could later change her mind. If the penetrator then forces the victim to have intercourse, knowing she had changed her mind, the police could charge the penetrator with rape.

Moreover, under California law, certain people cannot consent to sexual intercourse. For instance, intoxicated people cannot give consent to sexual intercourse.

  • Minors under the age of 18 cannot consent to sexual intercourse (see Statutory Rape, below).
  • As another example, persons with mental disorders may be unable to consent to sexual intercourse.
  • The Penal Code deems a victim who is unconscious as incapable of giving consent to sexual intercourse.

Lastly, under the California Penal Code, there is no requirement for a victim to resist or fight back during unlawful sexual intercourse.

Defenses to the Charge of Rape

There are several defenses to the charge of rape a knowledgeable Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer can assert.

  • That the victim consented to the intercourse is one of them.

Evidence of consent might consist of text messages or emails exchanged by the couple after the sexual intercourse.

  • Videos of the couple leaving the alleged victim’s apartment building holding hands and laughing after intercourse may support the defense that the sex was consensual.
  • Another defense could be that sexual intercourse, in fact, never occurred.
  • Lastly, the defendant may assert the defense that the claim of rape is a false accusation. The existence of a prior relationship turned sour could support this defense.

Penalties for Conviction of Rape

In California, rape is a felony. Conviction on a charge of rape carries up to an eight-year state prison sentence.

Certain circumstances present in the rape case can add time to the state prison sentence.

  • If the victim suffered a serious bodily injury during the rape, there is additional jail time of up to three years.
  • If the victim was under 18 years old, a judge can add jail time up to 11 years to the sentence.
  • Lastly, if the victim was under 14, up to 13 years of jail time can be added to the sentence.

Statutory Rape

California Penal Code 261.5 addresses statutory rape. Under that provision, statutory rape occurs when any person has sexual intercourse with a minor under the age of 18.

  • Lack of consent is not an issue in statutory rape cases; as noted above, under California law, a minor cannot consent to having sexual intercourse.
  • Statutory rape can even be charged if the minor started the sexual encounter.

Defenses to a Charge of Statutory Rape

One defense to a statutory rape case is that defendant had a good faith, reasonable belief the minor victim was of age.

  • For instance, the defendant might have met the minor at a party at which only adults attended.
  • Another defense could be that intercourse did not occur. Penalties for a Conviction of Statutory Rape
  • If the defendant is no more than three years older than the victim, statutory rape is a misdemeanor. In California, misdemeanor convictions carry a sentence of up to one year in jail.
  • If the defendant is more than three years older than the victim, the case is a misdemeanor or felony. The decision on how to treat the charges will be made based on the facts of the particular case, at the discretion of the prosecutor.
  • If the defendant is convicted of a felony, the sentence can be up to three years in jail.
  • If the defendant is over 21, and the victim under 16, the case is a misdemeanor or a felony. However, if the defendant is convicted of a felony, the jail sentence is up to four years.

Contact Perlman & Cohen

Experienced Los Angeles criminal lawyers can assist persons charged with rape vigorously fight the charges. A good criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles will hold the prosecution to the high standard of proving their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Daniel Perlman and Matthew Cohen are experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers at Perlman & Cohen.

If you or a loved one have been charged with rape, they will investigate the incident, get all relevant police reports and records, interview witnesses (if any) and prepare your case for trial. In appropriate cases, they will negotiate a plea to lesser charges from a position of strength. Call them at (310) 557-1700 to set up a free consultation so they can help you fight the charges and protect your rights.

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