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Defending Against Rape Charges

Rape, which is a form of sexual assault, is a serious crime that comes with serious penalties if you are convicted. Even just an allegation of rape can be life-altering, regardless of the criminal case outcome. Protecting your rights is critical if you are facing these types of charges. A strong criminal defense can help.

What Is Rape?

The current definition of rape, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ), stands as the penetration of the vagina or anus with a body part or object, including oral penetration, without the victim's consent. This definition, in place since 2012 sought to make the element of consent clearer.

The crime of rape involves non-consensual sexual intercourse that is committed by physical force, threat of injury, or some other form of duress.

Rape can occur within a marriage, can be carried out by either gender, and the amount or type of force can vary. The victim's lack of consent is at the crux of any rape crime, date rape included. In some jurisdictions, a lack of consent can include the victim's inability to say "no" to intercourse due to the effects of drugs or alcohol. Rape can occur when the offender and alleged victim have a preexisting relationship (no matter the duration), or even when the offender is the victim's spouse.

However, keep in mind that a conviction for rape requires some form of sexual penetration. Each instance of penetration can serve as a count of rape, as well.

Types of Rape

Rape is a broader category containing several particular subtypes, depending on the context of the offense.

Acquaintance Rape

Acquaintance rape occurs when the victim knows or trusts the perpetrator. Acquaintance rape is the most common form of rape in America, comprising around 80% of all cases.

Marital Rape

Marital rape is similar to acquaintance rape, with the victim being the spouse (or ex-spouse) of the offender.

Date Rape

Date rape, perhaps confusingly, shares several traits with acquaintance rape, but it also involves a romantic relationship or the potential for a romantic encounter between victim and offender(s).

Statutory Rape

Nonforcible sexual activity involving at least one underage individual (meaning below the "age of consent") and, typically, one or more adults is considered statutory rape. Because underage individuals cannot legally consent to sex, this act is automatically illegal. Statutory rape laws vary by state, with states setting the age of consent differently and using different names to refer to this crime. Statutory rape is a broad term with charges including sexual assault, corruption of a minor, and unlawful sex with a minor.

Rape By Deception

Rape by deception is often difficult to prove because it is defined by the perpetrator gaining the sexual consent of the victim under false pretenses. For example, pretending to be a regular sex partner in order to gain access to an otherwise unwilling target would be considered rape by deception.

What's the Difference Between Sexual Assault and Rape?

It can be difficult to distinguish sexual assault from rape. According to the DOJ, sexual assault is sexual contact or behavior that occurs without consent. This can include child molestation, incest, and attempted rape.

The biggest difference between sexual assault and rape is that sexual assault is a broader category that includes the crime of rape. Whenever penetration is involved in a sexual assault, it is likely to fall under rape.

Punishment for a Rape Conviction

There is no federal rape charge. Instead, it is grouped with other non-consensual sexual acts in the U.S. Code, which are punished severely if you are convicted.

States also have harsh sentences for rape convictions. Some states determine the punishment for a rape charge based on the severity of the crime (first, second, or third-degree).

States usually consider non-statutory rape a felony charge, with some states differentiating between felony charges and misdemeanor charges in cases of statutory rape, depending on the case.

If you're found guilty of first-degree rape in New York, for example, you could face five to 25 years in prison, in addition to $5,000 in fines. In Texas, a state that does not differentiate between rape and statutory rape, those convicted of rape face two to 20 years imprisonment. Californians convicted of rape could face up to eight years imprisonment and fines up to $10,000.

In nearly all instances, a rape conviction also means having to register as a sex offender. This designation is a matter of public record and is typically difficult, if not impossible, to expunge.

What If I've Been Wrongly Accused of Rape?

Unfortunately, false reports of rape are sometimes made. While the motivation for lying and falsely accusing someone of rape could, of course, be wildly diverse, false accusations often stem from a desire to seek revenge on the accused or from the alleged victim's desire to cover up their own sexual activity.

There are penalties in place under various state laws for falsely reporting that a rape occurred. However, since a rape conviction can result in serious penalties, it is extremely important to consult a qualified criminal defense attorney if you have been falsely charged with rape. An experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to examine the details of the case, look for additional evidence, and help you determine the best way to mount a defense.