Mississippi Sexual Battery Laws

Related Ads

Talk to a Criminal Defense Lawyer

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

searchbox small

Although Mississippi still has a law on its books defining rape in such florid antebellum terms as “ravishing” a “woman of previous chaste character,” the state’s sexual battery laws have made the leap forward into the modern era. Chastity of the victim is irrelevant under Mississippi’s sexual battery law.

This article discusses Mississippi sexual battery laws. For information about statutory rape laws, see Statutory Rape Laws, Charges, and Punishments.

What is Sexual Battery in Mississippi?

A person is guilty of sexual battery under Mississippi law if he or she engages in sexual penetration with:

  • another person without that person’s consent
  • a “mentally defective,” mentally incapacitated or physically helpless person
  • a child between the ages of 14 and 16, if the person charged is at least three years older than the victim
  • a child under age 14 if the person charged is at least two years older than the victim, or
  • a child under age 18 if the person charged is in a position of trust or authority over the victim (such as a teacher, counselor, physician, psychiatrist, minister, priest, scout leader, coach, parent, or legal guardian).

(Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-95.)

Mississippi law also makes it a crime to sexually penetrate or fondle a victim who is a “vulnerable person" by:

  • an employee or volunteer at a health facility at which the victim is a patient or resident, or
  • a counselor, physician, psychiatrist, nurse, legal guardian, parent, or other person in a position of trust or authority over the victim.

The vulnerable person’s consent is irrelevant. (Miss. Code Ann. § 43-47-18.)

“Sexual penetration”

Mississippi law defines sexual penetration as any penetration, however slight, of the genital or anal openings of the victim’s body by any part of the offender’s body, or by an object. (Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-97(a).) Sexual penetration includes cunnilingus, fellatio, and anal intercourse.

Penetration is an essential element of the crime of sexual battery in Mississippi but any penetration, however slight, will support the charge.

“Mentally defective person”

Mississippi law defines a “mentally defective person” as one who suffers from a mental disease or condition that renders the person temporarily or permanently incapable of knowing the nature and quality of his or her conduct. (Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-97(b).)

“Mentally incapacitated person”

Mississippi law defines a “mentally incapacitated person” as one who, due to the influence of any drug or other substance ingested without the person’s consent, is incapable of knowing or controlling his or her own conduct. A key component of this definition is that it requires the incapacitation to have occurred without the person’s consent.(Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-97(c).)

“Physically helpless person”

Mississippi law defines a “physically helpless person” as one who is unconscious or for any other reason is physically incapable of communicating an unwillingness to engage in an act. Here, the key component of the definition is the inability to communicate lack of consent. (Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-97(d).)

“Vulnerable person”

Mississippi law defines a “vulnerable person” as a person of any age whose ability to perform normal daily life activities or provide for his or her own care is impaired due to a mental, emotional, physical, age-related, or developmental disability or dysfunction. (Miss. Code Ann. § 43-47-5 (q).) The term “vulnerable person” includes all residents or patients in any hospital, long-term care facility, hospice, or adult day services facility. (Miss. Code Ann. § 43-47-5 (b).)

Defenses

There are certain defenses available to a person charged with sexual battery in Mississippi. Here are a few of them.

Consent

The prosecution must prove that the victim did not consent to the sexual penetration in order to convict a defendant of sexual battery in Mississippi. If the prosecution fails to prove lack of consent beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant must be acquitted.

Rape shield law

Evidence of a victim’s sexual behavior or history cannot be introduced in a Mississippi court to show consent or for any other purpose, as a general rule. As is the case in many states, Mississippi’s “rape shield” law prohibits a defendant from introducing evidence of the victim’s sexual history or behavior. (Miss. Rule of Ev. 412.) This is a stringent rule: A Mississippi court barred even evidence of a victim’s report of sexual abuse by a male other than the defendant at around the same time as the alleged sexual battery by the defendant occurred.

However, a defendant may attempt to offer evidence about the victim’s sexual behavior in order to show that the victim lacks credibility. Mississippi law sets out a procedure for the defendant to follow to seek the court’s permission to introduce such evidence, which requires a written motion to the court, a closed hearing outside the presence of the jury, and then introduction of evidence to the jury if the court grants the defendant’s motion. (Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-68.)

Marriage defense

Mississippi has not completely abandoned its archaic view of sexual battery, however, The fact that the person charged with sexual battery and the victim were married and living together may be offered as a defense to a sexual battery charge. (Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-99.) However, the defense fails if the prosecution proves that the defendant engaged in “forcible sexual penetration” upon his or her spouse without the spouse/victim’s consent.

And, a person charged with sexual battery or fondling of a vulnerable person may offer the fact of the defendant’s marriage to the victim at the time of the crime as a defense. (Miss. Code Ann. § 43-47-18.) The marriage defense to this crime also fails if the prosecution proves that the defendant forcibly sexually penetrated the victim.

For more information about Mississippi marital rape law, see Mississippi Rape Laws and Penalties.

How is Sexual Battery Punished in Mississippi?

Sexual battery is a felony in Mississippi. A person convicted of the crime faces a prison term of not more than 30 years. (Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-101 (1).) Mississippi provides for specific punishments that depend on the age of the perpetrator and the victim:

  • A person between the ages of 18 and 21 who is convicted of sexual battery on a victim who is between 14 and 16 years of age faces a prison term of not more than five years, a fine of $5,000 or both. (Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-101 (2)(a).)
  • A person 21 years of age or older who is convicted of sexual battery on a victim who is between 14 and 16 years of age faces a prison term of not more than 30 years, a fine of $10,000, or both. (Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-101 (2)(b).)
  • A person 18 years of age or older who is convicted of sexual battery on a victim who is under the age of 14 faces a sentence of not less than 20 years and up to life in prison. (Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-101 (3).)

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

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

Consult an Attorney

Sexual battery is a felony and a conviction may lead not only to a long prison sentence but also the requirement to register as a sex offender, which follows the offender for many years after the prison sentence ends. If you have been charged with sexual battery or any sex crime, see a lawyer with experience in criminal defense law in your area.

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.1.6.2.20140813.27175