People v. Olsen
36 Cal.3d 638, 685 P.2d 52 (1984)

  • Shawn’s father walked in to find her with Olsen.
    • There was some debate at the time, but Shawn eventually admitted that it was consensual.
    • Shawn was only 13 at the time.
  • The Trial Court convicted Olsen of committing a lewd act on a child under age 14 (Model Penal Code §288). He appealed.
    • Olsen argued that Shawn had told him that she was 16. That would still have been a crime under California law, since the age of consent was 17, but it had a much lower penalty.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed.
    • The Appellate Court looked to California law, which makes anyone who “honestly and reasonably believed the victim was 14 years old or older” eligible for probation. The Court found that this implied that the Legislature did not consider Olsen’s belief to be a complete defense against the charge.
    • The Court relied on the lesser crime principle to uphold the conviction.
      • Basically, the lesser crime principle says that if you believe you are committing a little crime when in actuality you are committing a biog crime, you are still culpable for the big crime even though there was a mistake in fact.
        • In this case, Olsen claimed he thought the girl was 16, which would still have been a crime under California law, just a lesser one.