Ohio Rape and Sexual Battery Laws

A person who commits rape or sexual battery in Ohio can face serious criminal penalties, including lengthy terms of imprisonment and hefty fines.

By , Attorney

Ohio divides sexual assaults into two main categories, rape and sexual battery, and punishes each as a felony offense. Both rape and sexual battery prohibit engaging in "sexual conduct" with another person who hasn't consented, can't consent, or is coerced. Sexual conduct includes vaginal and anal intercourse, oral sex, and the insertion of any object into the vaginal or anal cavity without the privilege to do so.

Rape offenses apply when sex is obtained without the victim's consent or through the use of force, threat of force, intimidation, or coercion. A victim doesn't need to prove they physically tried to resist the offender.

Sexual battery, on the other hand, refers to several different scenarios (listed below) where the offender takes unjust and unfair advantage over the victim.

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

What Are the Penalties for Rape in Ohio?

A person commits rape by engaging in nonconsensual sexual conduct through force or threat of force. It's also considered rape to engage in sexual conduct with someone who is not their spouse (currently or separated) when any of the following applies:

  • the offender impairs the victim's judgment or control through the use of any drug, intoxicant, or other controlled substance
  • the victim is under 13 years old, or
  • the victim's mental or physical condition or advanced age substantially impairs them from resisting or consenting (and the offender is aware of their condition).

Rape constitutes a first-degree felony with a wide range of penalties depending on the circumstances of the offense. Some rape offenses carry potential prison sentences of 3 to 11 years. However, rape penalties can be much harsher, even sending an offender to prison for life without the possibility of parole. For example, if the victim is less than 13 years old, the defendant can receive a mandatory minimum of ten years in prison and up to life.

What Are the Penalties for Sexual Battery in Ohio?

Sexual battery involves an offender's sexual conduct with another person when certain circumstances apply that impair the victim's ability to give valid consent. Here are some examples:

  • the offender coerced the victim
  • the offender knew the victim was unaware or didn't have the ability to understand what was happening
  • the offender is the victim's parent or guardian
  • the victim was in custody at a detention facility or a patient in a hospital and the offender had supervisory authority over them
  • the offender was a teacher or coach and the victim was their student or athlete
  • the offender was a mental health professional and induced their patient to submit under false pretenses relating to treatment, or
  • the offender is a religious leader and the offender is a congregant younger than 18.

Sexual assault constitutes a third-degree felony in the majority of cases. Such an offense carries 9 to 60 months of incarceration. However, it becomes a second-degree felony in instances where the victim is under 13 years old. In that situation, a guilty defendant faces two to eight years in prison. Harsher penalties may apply for repeat offenders or those deemed sexually violent predators.

Defenses to a Charge of Rape or Sexual Battery

Defendants charged with sexual battery or 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 conduct was consensual. However, this defense only applies to conduct between two adults. Statutory rape laws make those under 16 years of age legally incapable of giving consent to sexual activities. This means that even if the minor consented, the sexual activity was nonetheless illegal and the defendant may be convicted of sexual battery or rape. The difference in ages between the offender and victim plays a role in the level of felony the prosecutor charges.

Ohio law makes it clear that, if the victim is under 13 years old, mistake of age is not a valid defense to rape—no matter how reasonable the offender's mistake might have been.

Sex Offender Registration in Ohio

People in Ohio who are convicted of rape or sexual battery are required to register as sex offenders for life. Registered sex offenders must periodically provide personal information and a photograph to their local sheriff's office. Ohio law also requires registrants to supply law enforcement with information relating to their computers, such as email accounts and online screen names and handles. Failure to report annually­­—and sometimes even more frequently—can result in additional criminal charges.

Obtaining Legal Advice and Representation

If you are facing a 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 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.

(Ohio Rev. Code §§ 2907.01, -.02, -.03; 2929.14; 2950.01, -.06, -.07 (2021).)

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