Rape is a criminal act that is typically classified as a violent felony. Each state in the United States has laws about rape which define the act, although the wording may vary slightly across the states. 

Rape is unlawful sexual intercourse without an individual’s consent, regardless of the victim’s gender. There are many different circumstances in which an individual may be charged with rape. These may include:

  • When an individual engages in sexual intercourse against another individual’s will or without that individual’s consent by using: 

    • force; 
    • violence; 
    • duress; 
    • menace; 
    • fear; or 
    • fraud;
  • When an individuals is too Intoxicated to consent and another individual engages in sexual conduct with them;
  • When an individual engages in sexual conduct with another individual who suffers from a mental or physical disability which prevents them from being able to consent to the sexual conduct; and
  • When an individual engages in sexual conduct with another individual who is incapacitated, which means that the victim was unaware that they are engaging in a sexual act. An example of this is an individual who is asleep.

What are Some Different Categories of Rape?

There are different kinds of rape which may be categorized depending on the factors that are present, which may include the individual’s ages and relationship. Different types of rape charges may include:

Statutory rape is unlawful sexual intercourse with an individual who is under the age of consent, regardless of whether or not the sexual act was actually consensual. The age of consent may vary by state, from 16 to 18 years of age. Even an individual who is 19 years of age and has sexual intercourse with another individual who is two years younger, if that state’s age of consent it 18, the individual may face statutory rape charges.

Date rape occurs when unlawful sexual intercourse is committed during a social engagement between the perpetrator and the victim. Date rape may also occur when a victim has been drugged and the perpetrator has sexual intercourse with them.

Martial rape is rape that occurs in a marriage. This type of rape occurs when a spouse forces a sexual act on the other spouse without their consent. Martial rape has not always been recognized as an offense. However, it is now considered a serious crime and the defendant is not permitted to use marriage as a defense in a rape case.

It is important to remember that rape is a criminal act which may occur in many different scenarios if the criteria are met, not just in the situations discussed above. In addition, some states divide rape into degrees based on the seriousness of the offense.

First degree rape may include severe physical injuries and carries harsher punishments than second degree rape. Second degree rape may not involve any physical injuries beyond the incident itself.

What Happens After Someone is Accused of Rape?

After an individual reports a rape to law enforcement, they will begin an investigation into the matter. If there is enough evidence, the perpetrator will be charged with rape and arrested.

Depending on the circumstances of the case, bail may or may not be set. If the parties to the case do not reach a plea agreement, then the case will proceed to trial.

In order to convict a defendant that is charged with rape, the prosecution carries the burden or proof beyond a reasonable doubt and must prove the following elements:

  • The defendant was engaged in some form of sexual act or intercourse with the victim. It is important to note that full penetration of sexual intercourse is not required for rape to have occurred;
  • The sexual intercourse or sexual act was against the victim’s will or without their consent; and
  • The defendant engaged in sexual intercourse or the sexual act through an act of force, violence, duress, menace, fear or fraud.

If the prosecution proves these elements beyond a reasonable doubt and the defendant is convicted, the defendant will face serious penalties. 

What are Some Possible Consequences of being Charged with Rape?  

There are numerous consequences that an individual may face if they are charged with rape. The defendant may be facing felony conviction consequences if they are convicted of the crime.

In addition, the defendant may be required to register as a sex offender, which comes with many requirements and restrictions that an individual will be required to fulfill for many years, possibly their entire lives. In addition, charges may cause an individual issues at their place of employment, school, or in their personal lives.

What are the Penalties for a Conviction of Rape?

Rape is a serious crime and, as noted above, is considered to be a violent felony. Penalties for rape convictions vary by state and depend on the facts and circumstances of each individual case. However, a conviction may very likely result in incarceration for the defendant. 

The length of time an individual is required to serve in prison will depend on the severity of the crime and whether or not the defendant has any prior convictions for rape or other felonies. In certain cases, a conviction for rape may result in a life sentence for the defendant, depending on the facts shown at trial.

The potential penalties and incarceration time increases if the offense involved a minor or if the offense resulted in the death of the victim. Some states require a minimum prison sentence or may require a court to impose a sentence that does not include probation or early parole.

In other states, the court may have discretion regarding the length of the defendant’s sentence. The court may also have discretion regarding whether or not the defendant can serve any portion of their sentence on probation rather than in prison.

What Should You Do if You Were Raped?

If an individual is raped, they should contact law enforcement immediately and seek medical attention. Even if the individual does not feel or see any symptoms of physical injuries, a medical examination, which includes a rape kit, is necessary to collect evidence and prevent sexually transmitted diseases. 

If an individual has been raped, they should take the following actions in order to ensure as much evidence as possible is collected and preserved, including:

  • Not showering, bathing, or changing their clothes prior to the medical examination. Otherwise, incriminating evidence may potentially be destroyed;
  • If an individual suspects a date rape drug has been used, they should inform their doctor immediately. Traces of date rape drugs often disappear quickly from the individual’s body;
  • The individual should gather all the evidence that they may have and try to write down as much information that they can remember regarding the circumstances of the incident. If possible, including a detailed description of the individual that they believe was the attacker; and
  • The individual should contact a friend, family member or counselor that they trust who can give them the support they need.

Do I Need an Attorney for a Rape Case?

Yes, it is absolutely essential to have the assistance of a criminal defense attorney if you are facing rape charges. Rape is a very serious charge that can have an effect on every aspect of your life for the rest of your life.

Your attorney can advise you of your state’s rape laws and how they may affect your case, determine if any defenses are available to you, and represent you any time you are required to appear in court. In addition, your attorney can attempt to negotiate a lesser charge or a plea deal with the prosecution, depending on the circumstances of the case.