New Mexico Sexual Battery Laws

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Criminal sexual penetration (sometimes also called “sexual battery,” “sexual assault,” or rape) is illegal in New Mexico, and punished as a felony. The circumstances of the offense determine the level of felony, which in turn determine the penalties that apply to the crime.

When it comes to rape, the law strives to protect strangers, acquaintances, and married people equally. In New Mexico, as in all states, there is no exception or defense to prosecution for rape that occurs within a marriage, although a marital statutory rape exemption does exist (to learn more about marital rape laws in New Mexico, see Marital Rape in New Mexico).

Criminal Sexual Penetration

In New Mexico, “criminal sexual penetration” and “rape” are synonymous, and occur when someone compels a victim to engage in sexual intercourse against the victim’s will. Aggravated criminal sexual penetration consists of all criminal sexual penetration perpetrated on a child younger than thirteen years old with an intent to kill or while being reckless of human life.

This crime also includes statutory rape, and greater penalties apply to offenses that cause serious bodily harm, or when perpetrator possesses a deadly weapon (discussed below).

(N.M. Code Ann. § 30-9-11.)

Penalties

Penalties for criminal sexual penetration depend on the circumstances of the crime. Increased penalties apply if certain aggravating circumstances (such as prior convictions) exist.

Aggravated criminal sexual penetration or criminal sexual penetration that involves force or coercion resulting in great bodily harm or great mental anguish to the victim is a felony in the first degree. Penalties include a fine of up to $15,000, up to 18 years in prison, or both.

When the perpetrator is armed with a deadly weapon, or criminal sexual penetration that results in personal injury to the victim (such as, for example, bruising or scrapes that do not rise to the level of “great bodily harm”, as above), is a second degree felony. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, up to nine years in prison, or both.

All other criminal sexual penetration is a third degree felony, which incurs a fine of up to $5,000, up to three years in prison, or both.

(N.M. Code Ann. § 30-9-11.)

Defenses to a Charge of Criminal Sexual Penetration

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

A 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.

See a Lawyer

If you are facing a 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.

by: , Contributing Author

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