I'm Being Charged with Rape: What Should I Do?

Related Ads

Talk to a Criminal Defense Lawyer

Enter Your Zip Code to Connect with a Lawyer Serving Your Area

searchbox small

A rape charge is a serious felony charge. It typically involves an accusation that the defendant forced another person to engage in sexual intercourse, anal sex, or other sexual activity involving even the slightest form of penetration, without that person’s consent. This criminal act is referred to as rape in many states but also as sexual assault, sexual battery, criminal sexual conduct, and criminal sexual penetration. Other sexual offenses include statutory rape (having sex with a person under a certain age even if the young person allegedly consented), oral sex (without penetration) or sexual touching without the other person’s consent, and sexual abuse of a child. Some of these other crimes may be less serious offenses than rape or sexual assault and may even be charged as misdemeanors, but any sexual offense charge should be addressed immediately.

For more information on statutory rape, see Statutory Rape. The laws of each state are accessible from this article. Child enticement, including articles for each state, is discussed in What Is the Crime of "Child Enticement?"

What to Do First

If you have been charged with rape, you should retain an attorney as soon as possible. You should also:

  • gather and preserve any physical evidence relating to the alleged victim and the incident (clothing, photos, videos, and objects)
  • gather and preserve any documents or records that could relate to the case, such as letters, emails, records that might show where you were at the time of the incident (especially if you believe you were not with the alleged victim or at the location of the incident at the time it took place), phone and GPS records, computer records, and
  • make a list of possible witnesses—any person who you think has information about the incident, the accusations or the alleged victim—and obtain the witnesses’ contact information.

You should be prepared to share all of this information and material with an attorney.

What Not to Do

Just as important as preserving evidence and recording important information is knowing what not to do. If you are facing rape charges, you should not:

  • try to talk to the victim about the case or have any contact with the victim
  • talk to law enforcement or other investigators without an attorney present, or
  • ask for or agree to testing that is not mandatory—such as DNA testing prior to arrest—or give any evidence to law enforcement without consulting with a lawyer first—even if you believe the evidence will show you are not guilty of the alleged crime.

The Possible Consequences of Being Charged with Rape

The most obvious and serious concern if you are charged with rape is that you could be convicted of the crime. A rape conviction has serious potential consequences. A defendant could be:

  • sentenced to time in jail or prison, including a potential life sentence under certain circumstances, in some states
  • placed on probation for an extended period, and
  • required to register as a sex offender.

In addition to criminal consequences, a person convicted of rape could:

  • lose employment
  • lose professional licenses such as a license to practice law, medicine, social work, psychology or other professions
  • lose custody of children and be permitted to have only supervised contact with children, and
  • face a civil law suit for damages the victim has suffered.

Simply being accused of rape, especially if the case draws media attention or other publicity, also can result in serious consequences beyond a criminal prosecution.

How Legal Representation Can Help

Because of the possible consequences, no one should face a rape charge without being represented by an attorney.

Criminal investigation and preparation of a defense

While law enforcement and the prosecutor’s office conduct criminal investigations before charging a person with a crime, both the prosecution and the defense continue the investigation after a person has been charged. Defense attorneys who investigate rape charges and prepare a defense will typically explore certain issues, including:

  • whether the victim is lying about what happened
  • whether the victim has intentionally or mistakenly identified the wrong person as the offender
  • whether the defendant has an alibi, and
  • whether evidence establishes that the incident did not occur or that the defendant is not the person who committed the crime (fingerprints, DNA, photographs, video or the other items listed above).

An experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney will be aware of the possible defenses to a rape charge and the issues that need to be explored. An attorney can:

  • advise you of all your legal rights as a criminal defendant
  • give you advice about whether to give information to the police or prosecutor and whether to voluntarily submit to DNA testing before an arrest or agree to other possible law enforcement requests (DNA testing may be mandatory after an arrest for a serious crime)
  • give you information about sex offender registration and how that may apply in your case, and
  • represent you in the criminal proceedings and, if necessary, assist you in deciding whether to accept a plea offer or go to trial.

by: , Contributing Author

Talk to a Defense Lawyer

Charged with a crime? Start here to find a lawyer.
HOW IT WORKS
how it works 1
Briefly tell us about your case
how it works 2
Provide your contact information
how it works 1
Choose attorneys to contact you
LA-NOLO2:DRU.1.6.1.20140626.27175