Washington Marital Rape Laws

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Just like rape between strangers or acquaintances, marital rape—rape that occurs between spouses—is illegal in Washington, and punished as a felony.

To learn more about assault laws in Washington, see Sexual Assault in Washington.

Marital Rape

In Washington, rape (also known as “indecent liberties”) occurs when someone compels a victim to engage in sexual contact 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, having passed out from drug or alcohol use, or having a mental disability that makes the victim incapable of giving consent). 

The punishment for rape is the same for spouses who rape as for other offenders, although it may be more difficult for the victim to prove that she didn’t consent to her husband than it would be to prove non-consent with a stranger.

(Wa. Rev. Code Ann. § 9A.44.100, 9A.44.050, & 9A.44.060.)

Penalties

The penalties for marital rape depend on the circumstances of the crime. Marital rape is usually a class A felony, which incurs a fine of up to $50,000, up to life in prison, or both.

However, offenses occurring against victims who are mentally defective, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless, are class B felonies. Penalties include a fine of up to $20,000, up to ten years in prison, or both.

And offenses that are completed under less serious circumstances (such as when there is a threat of substantial unlawful harm to the victim’s property rights) are class C felonies. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, up to five years in prison, or both.

See a Lawyer

If you are facing a sexual assault charge, consider consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney who regularly practices in your area. Numerous defenses apply to charges of felony assault 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’s skillful negotiation with the prosecutor can sometimes result in a reduction of charges or a reduction in penalties, such as less prison time, no prison time, probation, and lower fines. A local criminal defense attorney, who knows how the prosecutors and judges involved in your case typically handle such cases, can assist with these negotiations. And if you decide to go to trial, having a good lawyer on your side will be essential.

Help for Rape Survivors

If you are a victim of rape or sexual abuse, contact the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) National Sexual Assault Online Hotline for help and local resources.

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