Alabama Sexual Battery Laws

Rape (sometimes also called “sexual battery” or “sexual assault”) is illegal in Alabama.

Alabama's rape laws protect strangers, acquaintances, and married people equally. In Alabama, as in all states, there is no exception or defense to prosecution for rape that occurs within a marriage (to learn more about marital rape laws in Alabama, see Marital Rape in Alabama).

Rape

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).

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)

Defenses to a Rape Charge

Defendants charged with rape have the usual defenses available to all criminal defendants, starting with “Someone else committed this crime.”

The defendant can also claim that the sexual activity was consensual. In a rape case, there can be significant questions about what constitutes consent or what constitutes refusal. This has led to the infamous question of when does “No” mean “No”? Does the word constitute a lack of consent as soon as it is spoken, or must the victim object more vigorously?

Another possible defense is an insanity plea, in which the defense argues that the accused is mentally ill and did not have the capacity to control his behavior, to form criminal intent or to understand what he was doing or that his actions were unlawful.

Assault in the First Degree

If a defendant seriously injures the victim during the offense, the defendant can be charged with both Rape in the First DegreeandAssault in the First Degree. Assault in the first degree is a Class B felony. However, a jury or judge could convict the defendant 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 sexual assault or rape charge, consider consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney who regularly practices in your area. Numerous defenses apply to rape charges, 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 can often negotiate with the prosecutor for a lesser charge or a reduction in penalties (such as, for example, probation instead of prison time); and will know how prosecutors and judges typically handle cases like yours.

Help for Sexual Assault and Rape Survivors

If you are a victim of sexual assault or rape, contact Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) for online help and local resources.

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