Three out of ten Americans use online dating platforms. Approximately 54% of American online daters believe relationships that come from online dating are just as successful as those that begin in person.
These statistics show that dating apps have become an integral part of modern romance, connecting individuals with shared interests and values. However, the increased reliance on these platforms has brought to light a concerning trend—dating apps can sometimes lead to legal complications, with rape charges being one of the most severe consequences.
Not everyone you meet online is what they claim to be. In fact, over 53% of Americans fabricate some or all of their profile. Online daters may lie about their age, background, and credentials for their selfish gains.
Contact us at Manshoory Law Group if you are facing criminal charges related to online dating. We will help you build a solid defense strategy. Call us at (877) 958-9414 for a free consultation.
The Dangers of Dating App Meet-Ups
You may have probably thought about online dating, especially if you are too busy to go out there and meet new people. With online dating, you can meet your new partner at the click of a button. In most cases, you will access numerous profiles and match with those with whom you share common interests. Then, you can start a conversation and arrange for a meet-up. This is how easy it is to find a partner.
However, how can you verify the identity of the person you speak to? Individuals using online dating apps may provide inaccurate information. They may also share outdated or fabricated images. This way, establishing the true identity of the person you are speaking with becomes challenging, even if the platform claims to enforce stringent verification measures.
The initial interaction typically involves virtual conversations, allowing individuals to acquaint themselves in the digital realm. However, complications may arise during the first in-person meeting and subsequent interactions, particularly if the relationship progresses to more intimate levels.
Nowadays, some dating apps may tempt users with the prospect of same-day “hookups,” often requiring minimal online interaction beyond a shared interest in sexual gratification. Despite frequent shutdowns by law enforcement, these platforms persistently reappear in various forms.
Some first meet-ups may go well, especially if you have been truthful with each other from the start. However, what happens if you discover your partner has been deceitful?
Potential Accusations You Can Face
Age is of significant importance in the context of sexual encounters stemming from online dating apps. Merely relying on the information stated in someone’s dating profile, where they claim to be 18 years of age or older, does not absolve you of legal liability for potential statutory rape. This is if the actual age turns out to be below 18.
California Penal Code section 261.5 states that it is unlawful to have sexual intercourse with a minor. Note that you cannot defend yourself in a statutory rape case by claiming that the minor consented to the sexual activity. This is because minors are deemed legally incapable of providing consent.
Even though online dating apps only allow adults, minors have found a way to infiltrate these platforms. In most cases, they join with fake credentials. You could assume you have planned a meet-up with an adult, yet they is a minor.
Therefore, when meeting in person, it becomes imperative to request proof of age if they assert to be 18 or older.
However, what if you reasonably and genuinely believed your partner was over 18? In that case, you can use the defense of “Good Faith Belief” as set out in California Criminal Jury Instruction 1071.
Practically, determining the exact age of individuals aged 15 to 25 is often challenging. Appearances alone may not be conclusive.
While the “Good Faith Belief” defense may be valid, you must convince the jury that your belief in your partner’s age would be reasonable for any adult. Here – you cannot just rely on appearance; you must provide other justifications that made you believe your partner was over 18.
Additionally, you may be charged with the more severe criminal offense of rape. The criminal offense of rape is defined as engaging in intercourse without the consent of your partner, regardless of their age.
If the sexual act occurs after a night of dining and drinking, your partner may be too intoxicated to provide informed consent. California law requires affirmative consent, and an individual incapacitated by alcohol or drugs cannot legally provide such consent.
You can also be charged with the criminal offense of sexual assault. Sexual assault encompasses acts such as touching the intimate parts of another person without their consent for arousal, sexual gratification, or abuse. Even actions perceived as innocent foreplay may lead to legal consequences.
Recognizing and respecting personal boundaries is essential in the digital space. If you do not do so, you can face criminal charges under California Penal Code 646.9 and 653m. California Penal Code 646.9 criminalizes stalking. Stalking is legally defined as the act of sending messages to threaten or harass another person. California Penal Code 653 states that it is unlawful to send an obscene, repeated, or threatening message with the intent to annoy the recipient.
When using a dating app, do not repeatedly send unsolicited messages. Respect the privacy settings of individuals and do not pressure the potential partners you interact with into activities they are uncomfortable doing.
Potential Penalties You Can Face Upon Conviction
The punishments for statutory rape are contingent on the age difference between the parties involved. An individual who is no more than three years older than the victim may face a misdemeanor charge, leading to a potential fine of up to $1,000 and a maximum prison sentence of one year.
However, should the offender exceed a three-year age difference and be older than 21 while the victim is 16 or younger, the offense escalates to a felony. In such cases, the penalties include a fine of up to $10,000 and a prison term ranging from 16 months to four years.
Rape is classified as a felony. It carries the potential for a three-, six-, or eight-year prison sentence. This sentence can be increased to 13 years if the victim is under 14. You may also get an 11-year sentence if the victim is 14–17. Additionally, individuals convicted of rape are obligated to register as sexual offenders for life.
The criminal offense of stalking, under California Penal Code 646.9, can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. As a misdemeanor, it attracts a jail term of a maximum of one year. As a felony, it is punishable by a state prison sentence of up to five years. A criminal charge under California Penal Code 653m may result in a county jail sentence of up to six months.
Need a California Criminal Defense Lawyer? Contact Us Right Away for Professional Legal Help!
Issues can arise in interpersonal connections across various contexts. However, online dating platforms, in particular, can serve as a fertile ground for deception and ensuing complications. It is essential to tread carefully because, without realizing it, you might end up causing serious legal issues for yourself if you rush into things too quickly.
At Manshoory Law Group, we have extensive experience assisting thousands of people in California with relationship-related legal matters. Our approach is to strongly advocate for you, working closely to figure out the best strategies for a positive outcome.
When it comes to legal support, choosing an experienced criminal defense attorney over a public defender can make a significant difference. You want someone who understands the complexities of the law and is dedicated to protecting your rights.
Call us at (877) 958-9414 for a free consultation if you are facing relationship-related legal issues. We will discuss how we can navigate these challenges together. Your peace of mind matters, and we are here to help.