Alabama Marital Rape Laws

Just like rape between strangers or acquaintances, marital rape—rape that occurs between spouses—is illegal in Alabama, and punished as a felony. The penalties that apply depend on the circumstances of the offense (which determine the applicable class of felony). Marital rape may be prosecuted as either a Rape in the First Degree, an Assault in the First Degree, or both (explained below).

To learn more about assault laws in Alabama, see Felony Assault in Alabama. For more information on marital rape, see Marital Rape.

Rape in the First Degree

Rape in the first degree is a Class A felony, and includes engaging in sexual intercourse by force or compulsion, or when the victim is incapable of consent due to physical helplessness or mental incapacitation (such as being in a coma or having passed out from drug or alcohol use).

The punishment for rape in the first degree is the same for spouses who rape as for other offenders, although it may be more difficult for the victim to prove that she didn’t consent to her husband than it would be to prove non-consent with a stranger.

Penalties include a fine of up to $60,000, at least ten years (and up to life or 99 years) in prison, or both. Additional penalties apply to offenses committed with a deadly weapon.

(Ala. Code § 13A-6-61)

Assault in the First Degree

Assault in the first degree is a Class B felony, and occurs when the defendant causes serious physical injury to the victim while committing one of several specified felonies, including rape in the first degree.

If a husband seriously injures his wife while raping her, he can be charged with both Rape in the First Degree andAssault in the First Degree. However, a jury or judge could convict him of only one. As described below, additional penalties may apply if the defendant is a repeat offender, or if he used a deadly weapon in the commission of the rape.

Penalties include:

  • Incarceration. Imprisonment is required for not less than two years and not more than twenty years. However, if the defendant used, or attempted to use a firearm or deadly weapon in the commission of the felony, there is a mandatory minimum of ten years of imprisonment.
  • Fines. The court can impose a fine up to $30,000.
  • Probation. A person on probation regularly meets with a probation officer and fulfills other terms and conditions, such as maintaining employment and attending counseling.
  • Community service. Courts often include as a part of probation the requirement that the defendant work for a specified number of hours with court-approved organizations, such as charities.
  • Habitual offender. If the defendant has a previous felony conviction, the law imposes increased penalties. The length of incarceration increases to life, or not more than 99 years or less than ten years. If the defendant used, or attempted to use a firearm or deadly weapon in the commission of the felony, there is a mandatory minimum of twenty years of imprisonment. The maximum fine increases to $60,000.

(Ala. Code § 13A-6-20)

See a Lawyer

If you are facing a charge of felony rape, assault, or both; consider consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney who regularly practices in your area. Numerous defenses apply to charges of felony assault and a lawyer can evaluate the strength of the prosecution’s case against you and help develop any defenses that might apply to your case.

A lawyer’s skillful negotiation with the prosecutor can sometimes result in a reduction of charges or a reduction in penalties, such as less prison time, no prison time, probation, and lower fines. A local criminal defense attorney, who knows how the prosecutors and judges involved in your case typically handle such cases, can assist with these negotiations. And if you decide to go to trial, having a good lawyer on your side will be essential.

Help for Rape Survivors

If you are a victim of rape, contact the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) National Sexual Assault Online Hotline for help and local resources.

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