Mississippi Marital Rape Laws

In Mississippi, a spouse can sexually batter his or her spouse without fear of legal repercussions, except when force is used. That is the ugly truth, codified in the law of the state.

This article discusses Mississippi’s marital rape laws. For information about the history of marital rape laws, see The History of Marital Rape Laws

For more information about Mississippi’s sexual battery laws in general, see Mississippi Sexual Battery Laws and Penalties.

Mississippi Sexual Battery Law

A person who engages in sexual penetration with another person without that person’s consent commits the felony crime of sexual battery under Mississippi law. (Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-95.) Sexual penetration means any penetration, however slight, of the genital or anal openings of the victim’s body by any part of the perpetrator’s body or by an object. (Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-97(a).) Under Mississippi law, sexual penetration also includes cunnilingus, fellatio, and anal intercourse.

But, Mississippi’s criminal code has one glaring, shameful exception to this law: If the perpetrator is married to the victim, he walks unless he uses force.

Sexual Battery of a Vulnerable Person

Mississippi law also makes it a felony crime for a person to engage in sexual penetration or to fondle a “vulnerable person,” regardless of the person’s consent. (Miss. Code Ann. § 43-47-18.) For purposes of this law, a “vulnerable person” is one whose ability to perform normal, day-to-day activities or to protect him- or herself from abuse and exploitation is impaired due to mental, emotional, physical, or developmental disability or dysfunction.(Miss. Code Ann. § 43-47-5.)

As with sexual battery generally, Mississippi law gives a person charged with sexual battery of a vulnerable person a defense if the perpetrator is married to the victim. (Miss. Code Ann. § 43-47-18.)

The Marriage Defense

Mississippi law (like that of a few other states) gives an alleged perpetrator of sexual battery a defense to the charge if the perpetrator is married to the victim of the battery. (Miss. Code Ann. §§ 97-3-95, 97-3-99.) The reason that Mississippi gives a husband (statistically-speaking, spousal rape is husbands raping wives) essentially a “right” to rape his wife is the ancient (and unjustifiable) notion that the marriage contract confers automatic consent to sex with one’s spouse at any time.

However, if a spouse uses force to engage in sexual penetration upon his or her spouse without that person’s consent, the defense that they are married is not available to the perpetrator. (Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-99.) But this means that the prosecution must prove that a husband used physical force to sexually batter his wife as an element of the crime.

Use of force

Force, for purposes of the Mississippi sexual battery law, means any actual physical overpowering by the perpetrator spouse of the victim spouse. It also includes acts that do not involve brute physical force.

Rape as an accessory

A spouse is also barred from claiming the marital defense if he or she assists or aids one or more other people in the rape of his or her spouse, for example by helping to hold or tie down the victim spouse or by administering drugs that incapacitate the victim spouse. In such a situation, the perpetrator spouse is not charged for sexually penetrating the victim spouse, but rather for acting as an accessory to others who penetrated the victim spouse. (Davis v. State, 611 So.2d 906 (1992).)

How is Marital Rape Punished in Mississippi?

A person convicted of the felony crime of sexual battery in Mississippi may be sentenced to a prison term of not more than 30 years. (Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-101 (1).) A person convicted of sexual battery or fondling of a vulnerable person faces a sentence of not less than two years and not more than 15 years in prison, a fine of not less than $1,000 and not more than $5,000, or both. (Miss. Code Ann. § 43-47-18.)

Sex Offender Registration

Because a spouse will be convicted of sexual battery in Mississippi onlyif the prosecution proves that force was used, a spouse who is convicted of spousal rape will likely have to register as a sex offender. This is because, under Mississippi law, anyone convicted of sexual battery involving the use of force must register with state and federal authorities as a sex offender.(Miss. Code Ann. § 45-33-25.) Sex offender registration restricts where the offender may work, live, go to school, and even just be present.

For more information about sex offender registration, see State Sex Offender Registration

See a Lawyer

Sexual battery is a serious felony charge in Mississippi and carries a potential penalty of decades in prison and the requirement of registering as a sex offender if convicted. Such a conviction and sex offender registration follow the person convicted for many years after the end of any prison term. If you are charged with sexual battery on anyone or have questions about the crime, see an experienced criminal defense lawyer in your area.

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