Brief Fact Summary. Defendants were convicted of violating a provision of California’s penal code that prohibits the commission of lewd acts with children under the age of 14 and argued that mistake as to the victim’s age is a defense to the crime charged.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Mistake of age is not a viable defense in cases of statutory rape.
Issue. Is a reasonable mistake as to a victim’s age a defense to a charge of lewd conduct with a child under the age of 14 where the statute is silent as to state of mind?
Held. No. Judgment affirmed.
Mistake of age is not recognized as a viable defense in cases of statutory rape.
Section 228 was enacted to protect children of tender years and the legislature made it clear that the statute did not contemplate applying the mistake of age defense in cases where the victim is of tender years. This is evidenced by the legislature’s enactment of a second provision which provides that individuals convicted under section 228, but whose conduct was based on a reasonable belief that the victim was of age, are eligible for parole. Had the legislature intended for mistake of age to act as a defense, it would have been unnecessary to enact such a provision.
In Robinson, the Supreme Court held that a state law which imprisons a person thus afflicted with narcotic addiction as a criminal, even though he has never touched any narcotic drug within the State or been guilty of any irregular behavior there, inflicts a cruel and unusual punishment.View Full Point of Law