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What Is Considered Rape?

The crime of rape is typically defined as unwanted, non-consensual sexual acts being forced on the victim by the offender. Offenders often use actual force or the threat of force to carry out unwanted sexual acts.

At the federal level, rape falls under the broader umbrella of sexual abuse or aggravated sexual abuse. At the state level, rape charges may be described as sexual battery, sexual abuse, sexual assault or similar sex crimes.

Rape is defined differently by state but is almost universally classified as a felony. It is punishable by imprisonment and court-mandated psychological counseling.

Further, if you are convicted of rape or other sexual offenses, you may be required to register with state and federal sexual offender rosters, where your home, work and school locations are tracked and kept up to date.

Types of Rape

There are many different forms of rape, largely separated by the parties involved and the circumstances surrounding the crime.

Date rape (a category of acquaintance rape, which is when two people who are familiar with one another are the parties concerned) is a common type of rape. Whether the offense takes place under the facilitation of drugs — described as a drug-facilitated sexual assault by some experts — or not, it is a crime.

Serial rape involves an offender who has established a pattern of committing rape acts, usually against victims who are unknown to them. This type of rape is often considered to be more sophisticated and involving more planning than other, less-common forms of rape, and is a serious threat in certain areas.

Statutory rape is also a common charge, which involves an age discrepancy between the victim and the offender. The offender has typically, but not always, reached the age of majority while the victim has not. If the victim has not reached the age of sexual consent in the jurisdiction of the statutory rape charge, the sexual act is automatically illegal.

Gang rape, spousal rape, rape by deception, corrective rape and custodial rape are also different types of rape.

Rape vs. Statutory Rape

While many rape charges center around a lack of consent from one partner, and both participants being of legal age, statutory rape centers around situations in which one of the participants is below the age of sexual consent, automatically making them the victim.

While the age of consent at the federal level is set at 18, some states such as Alabama, Kansas, Montana, Louisiana and North Dakota have set their age of consent at 16 or 17. In some jurisdictions, consent laws are further elaborated upon to include Romeo and Juliet statutes which allow teens that are close in age to engage in consensual sex.

What Is the punishment for Rape?

Rape is considered to be a very serious crime with severe penalties if you are convicted. At the federal level, with all acts of rape based on force, threats of force or coercion, there is no maximum penalty, and a life sentence is possible if you are convicted.

At the state level, rape charges are typically categorized by degree, and may even be held separate from lesser charges such as sexual assault. While fourth-degree sexual assault charges can result in fines or a short time in jail, formal felony rape charges typically carry a penalty of between three years and 30 years imprisonment, with some states allowing for a life sentence for those convicted of rape.

Statutory rape is usually heard in state court. The punishment for statutory rape is typically less severe — particularly if the parties to the offense are near in age and in an otherwise “consensual” (though not from a legal standpoint) romantic relationship. Typically, penalties increase as the age of the victim decreases. Misdemeanor statutory rape generally results in no more than a year in county jail for those convicted, while felony statutory rape leading to jail time between two to 10 years.

However, some states such as Alabama have strict statutory rape laws that can result in two years imprisonment or a life sentence for those found guilty.

Do I Need a Rape Defense Attorney?

If you’re facing rape allegations, it is highly recommended that you seek the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Not only can retaining experienced legal counsel increase the chance of an acquittal, but it can also lead to the best results possible.

If you are convicted of rape, you will likely be required to register as a sex offender in addition to any other penalties, and so it is vitally important to ensure you are taking all steps possible to acquire adequate legal representation before proceeding any further with your case.

How a Rape Defense Attorney Can Help

If you have been charged with rape, you should retain a sex crimes defense lawyer who can help. Your freedom is in jeopardy and as a convicted sex offender you may face community disapproval and ostracism.

An experienced rape defense attorney can

  • Advise you on the many possible defenses available to you
  • Investigate the factual circumstances of your case to dispute the charge
  • Negotiate with the prosecutor to establish bail, reduce or dismiss the charge, make a plea agreement and recommend an appropriate sentence
  • Represent you throughout the progress of your case, from arrest to sentencing
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