Iowa Marital Rape Laws

In Iowa, the marital rape exemption provides a defense to certain sex crimes when the victim and defendant live together as husband and wife.

For most of legal history, based on outdated notions that women were property and were not independent people, it was a defense to any sex crime that the defendant and the victim were married, no matter how brutal the crime. In the 1960s, with the women’s movement, laws started to change and today, it is illegal for men to rape their wives. However, vestiges of the marital rape exemption still exist in some states, including Iowa.

For more information on the marital rape exemption, see Marital Rape Laws and Penalties.

Iowa’s Sexual Abuse Law

Under Iowa’s laws, it is a crime to engage in any sexual activity by force or against the victim’s will.

(Iowa Code § 709.1.)

For more information, see Iowa Sexual Battery Laws.

Some criminal conduct may constitute sexual abuse as well as assault (an act intended to cause pain, injury, or offensive physical contact, or place another in fear of pain or injury).

For more information on assault, see Iowa Misdemeanor Assault LawsIowa Felony Assault Laws, and Assault With a Dangerous Weapon in Iowa.

The Limited Marital Rape Exemption in Iowa

In Iowa, the marital rape exemption applies in limited circumstances to decriminalize sex acts that would otherwise be considered sexual abuse. There is no marital rape exemption when sexual abuse occurs by force or against the victim’s will or when the victim is drugged or incapacitated.

However, it is a defense to a charge of sexual abuse that the defendant and victim are, at the time of the act, living together as a married couple or as cohabitants, when:

  • the victim suffers from a mental disability and is unable to consent, or
  • the victim is 12 to 15 years old.

(Iowa Code § 709.4.)

For example, a wife could not be convicted of sexual abuse of her husband who suffered from mental retardation, even if his mental retardation might be sufficient in other circumstances to establish that he was unable to consent to sexual conduct.

Likewise, a man with a child bride or teenaged common-law wife could not be convicted of sexual abuse based on their consensual sexual activity.

Punishment

In Iowa, all cases of sexual abuse are punishable by up to ten years’ imprisonment and a fine of $1,000 to $10,000. More serious cases of sexual abuse are punishable by up to 99 years in prison.

(Iowa Code § 902.9.)

Sex Offender Registry

People who are convicted of sexual abuse in Iowa are required to register as sex offenders, usually for life.

(Iowa Code §§ 692A.101, 692A.102, 692A.103, 692A.106.)

Obtaining Legal Assistance

If you are charged with a sex crime against anyone in Iowa, you should contact a local criminal defense attorney. If you are convicted, sex crimes have serious and long-lasting consequences. Your best chance to obtain a good outcome is to hire an experienced lawyer.

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