If you or someone you love has been accused of rape, you know just how devastating the consequences can be.

Rape allegations have immediate personal and professional repercussions. Being accused of rape can lead to damaged relationships, loss of professional opportunities and lost wages — long before you even set foot in a courtroom.

That’s why it’s so important to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately if you or someone you love has been accused of rape.

The California criminal justice system works swiftly and aggressively to prosecute rape cases. However, an attorney can help safeguard not only your constitutionally guaranteed right to due process, but also your personal freedom and reputation.

Definition of rape in California

los angeles criminal defense lawyerCalifornia Penal Code 261 PC defines rape as non-consensual intercourse accomplished by the means of:

  • Threats, force or fraud, or
  • A victim who is unconscious or incapable of consenting.

In order to convict you of rape, a prosecutor will have to prove that certain facts of the case were true. We often call these the “elements of the crime.” 

Rape has four elements:

  1. You had sexual intercourse with the alleged victim. This is considered as any amount of penetration, no matter how slight.
  2. That you were not married at the time. If you were, you could be guilty of a separate crime called “spousal rape.”
  3. That the other person did not consent to the intercourse.
  4. This was accomplished through either “threats, force or fraud,” or that the alleged victim was otherwise unconscious or unable to consent.

Let’s look at these three examples:

Example 1: Mike is a college junior and meets Sarah at a party. Both students drink heavily at the party to the point that Sarah is drifting in and out of consciousness. Mike brings Sarah back to his apartment, where the two have intercourse. Because Sarah was not conscious enough to consent to the encounter, Mike could be guilty of rape.

Example 2: Dave represents himself as a photographer for a pornography company, even though he actually is not. He places ads on online personals asking for interested models. When interviewing models, he asks them to “audition” with him. Dave is likely guilty of rape by fraud.

Example 3: Ian is dating Paul, and the couple has a fight. Later in the day, Ian goes to the bar and meets Charlie. Ian and Charlie go back to Charlie’s house and begin to have sex. A few minutes in, Ian feels remorseful about the affair and tells Charlie that he’d like to stop. Charlie continues and Ian, not wanting to escalate the situation, allows the encounter to continue.

Even though Ian initially consented, he is allowed to withdraw consent. As well, even though Ian didn’t physically resist at that point, his lack of consent was not respected. Charlie could be guilty of rape.

Penalties for rape in California

Rape is a felony in California, punishable by three, six or eight years in California State Prison. If the victim is a minor, the minimum punishment for rape is seven years in prison, with a maximum of 13 years. 

In either case, a conviction of rape can entail:

  • Fines of up to $10,000
  • An additional three to five years in state prison if the victim sustains a “great bodily injury”
  • A strike on your record, pursuant to California’s three strikes law

As well, in most cases, a conviction for rape will carry lifetime registration as a tier-three sex offender in California. This can create a cascade of issues for the rest of your life, from immigration issues to loss of professional licensure, difficulty finding housing and job loss.

Defenses against rape charges in California

“Robert really came to my rescue! I found myself under false accusations and he really came through. I was really freaking out, and Robert was able to make me feel like I was in good hands. I can’t recommend his services enough.”Drew, CA

Rape accusations are serious, but a skilled defense attorney can review the facts of your case and build the best possible defense for you. 

If you have been accused of rape, the prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt not only that you were there (false accusation, mistaken identity), but that consent was not given. An attorney can help review the evidence in the case — physical evidence, witness accounts, testimony — to deconstruct the prosecution’s arguments.

Robert M. Helfend has served the Los Angeles area as a criminal defense attorney for more than 30 years, specializing in sex crimes cases. Call today for a free case evaluation — 800-834-6434.