Virginia Sexual Battery Laws

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Rape (sometimes also called rape or “sexual battery”) is illegal in Virginia, 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 Virginia, as in all states, there is no exception for assault or rape that occurs within a marriage, although there is sometimes a limited opportunity to take part in counseling to avoid fines and jail time (to learn more about marital rape laws in Virginia, see Marital Rape in Virginia).

Rape

In Virginia, rape occurs when someone compels a victim to engage in a sexual act against the victim’s will, and also includes circumstances when the victim is mentally incapable of giving consent to sex (such as being in a coma or having passed out from drug or alcohol use), and statutory rape—when the victim is too young to legally be able to give consent. (Increased penalties apply to assaults against children younger than 13 years old.)

(Va. Ann. Code § 18.2-61.)

Penalties

A conviction for rape incurs at least five years (and up to life) in prison. Additional penalties apply to someone who rapes a child younger than 13 years old, and, may include a 25 year (to life) mandatory minimum prison sentence, depending on the severity of the circumstances of the crime.

(Va. Ann. Code § 18.2-61.)

Defenses to a Charge of Rape

Defendants charged with rape 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?

However, this defense only applies to conduct between two adults (people 18 or older). Statutory rape laws make minors legally incapable of giving consent to sexual activities. Therefore even if the minor “consented,” the sexual activity was nonetheless illegal and the defendant may be convicted of sexual battery or rape.

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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