Criminal Penalties for a Rape Conviction

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Rape and other sex crimes carry some of the most severe penalties that the justice system of the United States has to offer as well as those of the individual states. On the average, sex crimes penalties from both the federal and state systems include 6 to 7 years of prison time.  Rape convictions carry even more severe penalties. 

Rape/Sexual Assault

The legal term for rape is "Sexual Assault." Sexual assault is the forcing of another person into sexual intercourse. Some states define sexual assault in more broad terms to include other forcible sexual acts. In some cases sexual assault doesn't require physical force in order to take place; the threat of violence may be all that is necessary, especially if the predator brandishes a weapon. In other instances, no force or coercion is necessary if the victim is incapable of giving consent according to the law. For example, when the victim is unconscious she is incapable of giving consent; this is also true for those who suffer from a mental disorder. In some cases the victim is simply not old enough, according to statutes, to offer a valid consent. And finally, there are those under the influence of alcohol or drugs to such an extent that it renders them incapable of granting assent or offering sufficient resistance.

Rape Penalties

If convicted of rape, the penalties can vary according to circumstances and evidence provided during the trial. Across the United States, the average prison time for rape is between 8 and 9 years. In some circumstances statutes limit the amount of time off for "good behavior" a convict may receive. Others require that a high percentage of the sentence be served by the offender before becoming eligible for parole. In general, the sentences for rape/sexual assault mirror the same range of penalties for crimes such as robbery, extortion, racketeering and major drug convictions, carrying far greater sentences than those for crimes like burglary or manslaughter. In fact, under certain circumstances a rape conviction may result in a life sentence.

When the convict has served his prison term, he will also be required to register that he is a sex crime offender and have the information made available to the public through the internet and local police departments. Certain sex offenses require that the registration be updated quarterly for the remainder of their lives. 

Minimum Sentence for Statutory Rape Convictions

Recently state and federal lawmakers have moved aggressively toward imposing stronger penalties against those who are found guilty of statutory rape.

In recent years, lawmakers from both the state and federal levels have begun to pass laws that increase the penalties imposed against those who commit statutory rape.  Though most states have already passed laws that include penalties such as probation, imprisonment, and forced registration in sex-offender, these new laws being passed are targeting new mandatory minimums for jail time in the sentencing of those convicted of statutory rape.

In addition to the severe legal consequences for those found guilty of sexual assault, they are also forced to live with a felony conviction on their criminal records and therefore have difficulty finding housing and employment long after they have completed their time in prison.

Mandatory Minimum Sentences

Florida has attracted the attention of lawmakers from other states with its "Jessica's Law," which imposes stronger punishments as part of its mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines for those who commit certain sex crimes against children, including the conviction of statutory rape of a child.  Massachusetts has also passed similar laws based on "Jessica's Law."

As part of these more severe penalties, those convicted of statutory rape will face a minimum of a 10-year sentence if the child was under 12 years of age and the accused is at least 5 years older than the victim; or if the child is between the ages of 12 and 16 and the accused is 10 or more years older; or if the accused has a criminal history and is supposed to be a "mandatory reporter" (a person who because of his/her profession has contact with children and should be reporting crimes committed against children). These mandatory sentences are the minimum, the starting point; the sentences can be added to from there.  The concept behind minimum sentencing is to deter would-be rapists, and provide punishment to those convicted.

Contact an Attorney

Those who are charged with serious crimes like sexual assault and/or statutory rape have a right to defend themselves in a court of law. As such, and because conviction of these crimes carries with it stiff penalties in sentencing and also in life after prison, it is in their best interest to contact a competent criminal attorney to represent them in court and defend their rights.