A 17 year old male child has sexual intercourse with a significantly (at least two decades) older man.

In New York, where the child's residence is, this is, I think, legal. At the time of the incident, however, the child was staying in California, where this is, I think (same source), illegal, for a period of two months.

The state of residence of the adult is unknown.

Which state's laws apply? Can the adult be prosecuted?

  • It doesn't matter where they reside. It matters where they were when they had sex. The question does not mention this, so it is liable to be closed as unclear.
    – phoog
    Jun 13, 2017 at 5:09
  • @phoog The question states: "At the time of the incident... the child[,] was staying in California."
    – pgaliciano
    Jun 13, 2017 at 15:10
  • The term "staying" generally implies temporary residence. For example, someone staying in California for a time might travel to Oregon for a few days. If you want to say that the incident took place in California then the least ambiguous way of conveying that information is just to say as much explicitly.
    – phoog
    Jun 13, 2017 at 16:06

2 Answers 2


When a criminal act takes place, the state in which the act took place has jurisdiction. State of residence of perpetrator or victim is not at all relevant. It also would not matter where the minor was "staying", all that matters is where the act took place. If that was California, California Penal Code 261.5(c) says

Any person who engages in an act of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor who is more than three years younger than the perpetrator is guilty of either a misdemeanor or a felony, and shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.

Additionally, (261.5(e)(1) states

Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, an adult who engages in an act of sexual intercourse with a minor in violation of this section may be liable for civil penalties in the following amounts:...

(C) An adult who engages in an act of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor at least three years younger than the adult is liable for a civil penalty not to exceed ten thousand dollars ($10,000)


The laws of the state of California apply so the act is a crime.

The laws of the state of residence may also apply if the laws have extraterritorial applicability.

In addition, there are a number of Federal crimes involved: if the liaison was arranged by telephone, and if the minor or perpetrator crossed state lines for the purpose. These would all require some measure of pre-planning to be proved.

  • you assume the sex happened in California. The question doesn't say that. Jun 13, 2017 at 18:00
  • @MartinBonner "at the time of the incident the child was staying in California" - most people have sex where their bodies are.
    – Dale M
    Jun 13, 2017 at 20:12
  • To me, 'staying in' sounds like temporary residence. He could have visited a nearby state for the sex. Jun 13, 2017 at 21:03

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