Mississippi Forcible Rape and Sexual Battery Laws

Mississippi's forcible rape and sexual battery laws carry harsh penalties, ranging anywhere from decades to life in prison.

By , Attorney

Mississippi law makes it illegal to engage in sexual acts with another person who hasn't consented, can't consent, or is coerced. People who engage in unlawful sexual misconduct against another person can be charged with forcible rape or sexual battery.

This article will review the definitions and penalties for the crimes of forcible rape and sexual battery in Mississippi.

What Are the Penalties for Forcible Rape in Mississippi?

A person who forces someone to engage in sexual intercourse commits a felony punishable by life in prison. Nonconsensual sexual intercourse accomplished by drugging a victim with a substance (like alcohol or drugs), which leaves the victim unable to resist, also carries a punishment of life in prison. Sexual intercourse includes vaginal intercourse or any penetration into the genitals, anus, or perineum of a male or female.

Mississippi also imposes a potential life sentence for an offender who commits an assault with the intent to forcibly rape any virgin female.

What Are the Penalties for Sexual Battery in Mississippi?

A person is guilty of sexual battery under Mississippi law when engaging in nonconsensual sexual penetration with another person (no element of force). This offense includes lack of voluntary consent due to a victim's mental or physical incapacitation or legal consent due to age. Sexual penetration includes anal or oral sex or 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.

Sexual battery constitutes a felony in Mississippi. A guilty defendant faces up to 30 years in prison. Second and subsequent offenses subject an offender to up to 40 years in prison. Different punishments exist when the victim is under 17 years old. (For age-related offenses, see Mississippi Statutory Rape Laws.)

What Are the Penalties for Sexual Battery or Fondling of Vulnerable Persons in Mississippi?

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

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

Vulnerable person means any person (minor or adult) whose ability to perform normal daily life activities or provide for their own care is impaired due to a mental, emotional, physical, age-related, or developmental disability or dysfunction. This includes all residents or patients in any hospital, long-term care facility, hospice, or adult day services facility.

Sexual battery of a vulnerable person carries the same penalties as listed above—up to 30 years in prison for a first offense and up to 40 years for subsequent offenses. Fondling of a vulnerable person carries a sentence of two to 15 years in prison and a fine of $1,000 to $5,000.

Defenses to a Sex Crime Charge in Mississippi

Defendants charged with sex-related crimes have several potential defenses available to them. At the same time, the law prohibits or limits the use of certain defenses.

Actual innocence. Defendants charged with forcible rape and sexual battery have the usual defenses available to all criminal defendants, such as "Someone else committed this crime," or "The alleged conduct did not occur."

Consent. Consent as a defense applies only when the victim gives it freely and has the physical, mental, and legal capacity to consent. Legal capacity refers to crimes based on a victim's young age. For these crimes, defendants cannot claim consent as a defense. Mississippi's age of consent is 16 years old.

Marital exemption. When facing a sexual battery charge, the defendant can offer a marriage defense if the act occurred while the defendant was legally married to and living with the victim. However, the defense fails if the prosecution proves that the defendant engaged in forcible sexual intercourse or penetration without their spouse's consent.

Sex Offender Registration in Mississippi

Mississippi's Sex Offender Registration Law requires defendants convicted of the above rape or sexual battery offenses to register as sex offenders for life. Sexual fondling of a vulnerable person requires registration for 25 years. Failure to register results in additional criminal charges. Such an offense constitutes a felony, carrying up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Talk to a Lawyer

If you are facing a forcible rape or sexual battery charge, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in your area as soon as possible. A lawyer can evaluate the strength of the prosecution's case against you and help develop any defenses that might apply to the unique circumstances of your case. A knowledgeable attorney can also advise you on how the law will apply to your set of facts.

Victims of criminal sexual conduct can find a list of resources on our Victim Resources page. Among the resources listed is RAINN, the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the country.

(Miss. Code §§ 43-47-5, -18; 45-33-25, -33, -47; 97-3-65, -71, -95, -97, -99, -101 (2021).)

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