Rape

A rape offense is a serious matter in the state of California. Under California’s Penal Code, a rape offense can lead to severe punishments. Even though most people may know what rape is, it is important to know the specifics of the law and all of the elements when it comes to your case. California’s laws can be complex and vague at times, which can make for a stressful situation for anyone who may find themselves in a troublesome time. This is where a good lawyer can help.

Long Beach Criminal Lawyer prides itself on being able to provide its clients with lawyers who are highly experienced and qualified to tackle cases involving a rape offense. With our team, we can review your case and help to develop a defense that can work for you.

What Does the Law State About Rape?

Rape, as defined under California Penal Code § 261, is the engagement of sexual intercourse with another individual against their will, or without their proper consent. This can mean that the perpetrator used force, violence, coercion, menace, threat and/or fraud in order to make the other individual submit into engaging in sexual intercourse. To be considered rape, other circumstances must be included. These include:

  • The victim was physically disabled or has a mental disorder that prevented them from properly giving consent
  • The perpetrator used force, violence, coercion, menace, threat, and/or fraud in order to make the victim submit to their will
  • The victim was too intoxicated or under some other form of anesthetic
  • The victim was unconscious at the time of the crime
  • The victim thought the perpetrator was somebody else that they knew
  • The victim was forced to submit by threat of a future retaliation

These types of circumstances described above indicate situations in which the victim was unable to give proper consent, or the perpetrator forced the victim against their will—this is what makes the act rape under California law. Usually, if sexual intercourse occurs when the victim is unaware or not cognizant of the actual act taking place due to certain circumstances, like those listed above, it is considered rape.

Also, if the perpetrator was a public official who had the power to arrest, incarcerate, or deport the victim, or if the victim believed the perpetrator to be a public official with these powers, it is considered rape. In this situation, the victim is forced against their will to submit due to the potential threat of arrest, incarceration, or deportation.

All of the above is contained within the legal definition of rape in California. There are many elements to this type of offense that are important to take into consideration. Even though the act of rape can be specific, there are many ways that it can be done that further qualify it as a criminal act.

Why Am I Charged?

The legal definition of rape in California has many specific elements and circumstances contained under California Penal Code § 261. There are several types of incidents that can lead to a rape offense. Because of this, it crucial to further define certain parts of the law so as to provide a clear overview of the offense.

Rape means sexual intercourse perpetrated against a victim’s will or without their consent. This can be achieved through specific means, such as physical force, violence, duress, fraud, menace, threat, and/or fear of retaliation.

Duress, as indicated under the law, indicates a situation in which the perpetrator used a threat of some kind to coerce the victim into the sexual act. This is a kind of force made through words to make the victim do something that they would normally not do in the situation. This can also go hand-in-hand with situations in which a public official uses his or her powers to arrest, incarcerate, or deport as a threat to force sexual intercourse.

Example:

  • A police officer pulls over a woman for excessively speeding in a neighborhood. He forces the woman to have sex with him. The woman agrees out of fear of being arrested. This is considered rape by way of duress.

Menace is a threat or a display of intention to inflict physical pain or injury upon another individual. Also, within rape cases, there may also be a fear of potential bodily harm. The victim may fear any possible danger if they do not submit, or the perpetrator may use the victim’s fear to his or her advantage.

The law also mentions instances of rape that occur out of fear of retaliation. This can mean that the perpetrator has threatened to kidnap, imprison, or inflict injury or death upon the victim, or any other person in the future, if they do not submit to their will.

Example:

  • A man breaks into a family home. He forces a woman to have sex with him. He threatens to take the woman’s daughter if she does not comply. The woman agrees.

The use of fraud in these cases can mean multiple things. First of all, the perpetrator may have fraudulently presented him or herself as the victim’s spouse or dating partner during the time of the act. Secondly, the perpetrator may fraudulently convince the victim that the sexual intercourse was a part of a professional service when it was not. In both types of situations, the perpetrator takes advantage of the situation to unlawfully initiate sexual intercourse.

Examples:

  • Carmen enters a man’s apartment while he is sleeping. The man thinks she is his wife and consents to sexual intercourse. However, since it was dark and the man was tired, he did not realize till later that the woman was not actually his wife.
  • A masseuse convinces a woman that sexual intercourse is part of the massage package she paid for; however, this is untrue.

These examples present means through which the accused would have forced another individual to engage in sexual intercourse against their will, or under false pretenses. However, there are other forms through which the accused may take advantage of a victim and engage in sexual intercourse without the victim’s consent.

A common scenario in which rape can occur is one where the victim is too intoxicated by alcohol or by any other type of substance that may reduce the victim’s ability to be aware of what is happening. These types of substance can hinder a person’s ability to recognize what their situation may be.

Example:

  • While at a bar, Karen becomes very drunk. A man notices this and decides to take advantage of her state and forces her into sexual intercourse.

Lastly, situations in which the victim is physically disabled or has a mental disorder that prevents them from giving consent are considered rape. In these situations, the perpetrator takes advantage of the victim’s disabilities.

All of the situations described above may lead to a rape offense in California. Most of them represent instances in which the victim is either forced against their will or does not give proper consent to engage in sexual intercourse.

Penalties for A Rape Offense in California

Rape is a serious offense in California. The penalties and punishments listed out under California Penal Code § 264 are meant to reflect the severity of the crime. Rape is a felony offense meaning that the punishments are quite severe.

Usually, if the defendant is convicted of a rape offense, he or she could face the following punishments: either three (3), six (6), or eight (8) years in a state prison (an additional three (3) or five (5) years may be included if the victim was injured), a fine of up to $10,000, registration as a tier three sex offender for life, and a “strike” under California’s Three Strikes Law

Alternatively, the defendant may be sentenced to felony probation alongside up to one (1) year in jail. However, this sentence may only be received if certain conditions are meant in the case. This includes that the defendant is guilty of rape in a situation where the victim was unable to give proper consent due to a disability, the defendant pretended to be someone else at the time of the crime, or the defendant threatened to use powers as a public official and the judge believes it would serve the public’s best interests to grant probation.

If the victim is a minor, the prison time will be increased. If the victim was under the age of 18 at the time of the incident, the defendant may face either seven (7), nine (9), or eleven (11) years in prison. If the victim was under the age of 14 at the time of the incident, the defendant may face either nine (9), eleven (11), or thirteen (13) years in prison.

These punishments are very harsh and are meant to reflect the serious nature of a rape offense.

Related Offenses and Penalties

Alongside a rape offense, there are related and similar types of offenses that may be added to or charged instead of a rape offense. These include statutory rape, oral copulation by force, sexual battery, spousal rape, and forcible penetration by foreign object.

Statutory Rape

Under California Penal Code § 261.5, it is unlawful to engage in sexual intercourse with an individual below the age of 18 (a minor), even if it was consensual.

This is a “wobbler” offense, and it may be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony depending on the severity of the crime and on the defendant’s previous criminal history. If the minor is within three years of the defendant’s age, the offense is considered a misdemeanor. If the defendant is 21 or older and engages with a minor 16 or under, it may be charged either a misdemeanor or felony. Possible penalties include up to one (1) year in jail, or two (2), three (3), or four (4) years in prison. Also, there may be civil fines included on top of jail time.

Oral Copulation by Force

Under California Penal Code § 288a, oral copulation by force is defined as using force, violence, duress, threat, or fraud to engage in oral sex with another individual against their will. This is similar to rape, but instead of sexual intercourse, the crime arises from oral sex.

This is considered a felony offense, and could potentially lead to either three (3), six (6), or eight (8) years in prison.

Sexual Battery

Under California Penal Code § 243.4, sexual battery, or assault, is the unlawful touching of another individual’s intimate parts for the purpose of sexual gratification, arousal, or abuse against the will of the victim. This offense may be charged instead of rape if there was no actual penetration during a forced sexual interaction.

Sexual battery may be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony depending on the details of the case and on the defendant’s criminal history if any.

Spousal Rape

Spousal rape, under California Penal Code § 262, shares the similar actions that take place in a rape; however, the victim in these cases is the spouse of the perpetrator. Even the penalties for spousal rape are the same as those for a standard rape offense.

Forcible Penetration by Foreign Object

Under California Penal Code § 289, forcible penetration by a foreign object is similar to a standard rape offense in all ways, except that something other than a sexual organ was used to penetrate the victim. Once again, since this is similar to rape, it shares the same penalties.

What Is Needed to Prove Rape?

In any type of rape case, the prosecutor will need to prove certain elements in order to convict the defendant of the crime. These include: engagement in sexual intercourse with another individual, the defendant was not married to the victim, there was no consent given, and intercourse was achieved by means listed out in California Penal Code § 261.

Engagement in Sexual Intercourse

This means the prosecutor needs to prove there was penetration during the interaction, no matter how slight. This element is crucial in determining whether or not the crime is rape.

Lack of Consent

Another major element in rape cases is a lack of consent. Again, rape is defined as nonconsensual sexual intercourse against the victim’s will. This means the prosecutor must prove that no consent, or permission of any kind, was given during the incident. However, the prosecutor must also prove that the defendant knew that the victim did not consent to the sexual interaction.

Even in cases where the victim was a spouse or from a dating relationship, the prosecutor must still prove that the intercourse was nonconsensual.

Use of Threat, Fraud, Coercion, Duress, and Others

Lastly, the prosecutor must also prove that any one of the methods listed out under California Penal Code § 261, like a use of force, violence, threat, fraud, and more, were used to make the victim submit.

What Defenses Can Be Used?

With the help of a qualified lawyer with expertise in criminal law, there are defenses that may be used in a court of law to argue against a rape offense. These include consensual interaction, insufficient evidence, and false accusation.

Consensual Interaction

One of the major elements in rape cases is the lack of consent during the engagement of sexual intercourse. However, if the victim consented or if the defendant had a reasonable belief that the victim consented, the defendant may not be charged.

Insufficient Evidence

Sometimes there may be little to no evidence to prove that a rape had occurred. If the victim did not seek medical attention after such an incident, and there were no witnesses, there can be little proof that the actual act occurred. If this is the case, the defendant may not be charged.

False Accusation

Lastly, due to the personal nature of a rape offense and since there may not be any physical signs of a rape, it may be easy for anyone to accuse another person of rape. This could occur after heated arguments with familiar people. If this is the case, then the defendant may not be charged.

Is There A Criminal Lawyer Near Me Who Can Help?

If you, or anyone you know, are facing a rape charge, we can help. Rape is a serious offense, and the punishments can be quite severe and lasting. It is crucial that when you are charged, your first step is to find a qualified lawyer who will fight for you. At Long Beach Criminal Defense Lawyer, we believe we can provide you with a level of expertise and advanced knowledge in the area of law. You should not be alone if you have been charged with rape. Contact our offices at 563-304-5121 to reach our team of lawyers today. Our team will review your case as soon as possible and get started with helping you. We understand that facing a criminal charge can be stressful and difficult, especially for people who have never been charged with a crime before. We are here to make sure the process is easier on you, and that you receive all the help that you need. 

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