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Rape Under California Law: Definition & Common Defenses

Posted on in Criminal Defense

b2ap3_thumbnail_rape-San-Jose.jpgIn California, rape is considered to be a very serious sex crime that is committed when nonconsensual sexual intercourse is perpetrated via force, fraud, the threat of force, or is committed against a victim who is unconscious or incapable of consenting to the act. It is important to understand how rape is defined in California as well as a few commonly asserted defenses. However, anyone who has been accused of rape should contact a local sex crime defense lawyer for case specific information.

How Rape is Defined in California

Under Penal Code section 261, California’s rape statute defines the criminal offense of rape as an act of intercourse accomplished with a person under any of some of the following circumstances:

  • The victim is incapable of consenting to the act due to a mental disorder or physical disability;
  • The victim is prevented from resisting by an intoxicant, and the accused knew this; and
  • The victim submits to the act under the belief that the person committing the act is someone other than the accused, and the accused intended to induce this belief.

Again, this is only a few circumstances in which the act is considered rape; the full list, in reality, is more extensive. Additionally, California’s rape laws also contain specific statutes that criminalize spousal rape, date rape, statutory rape, oral copulation by force, and forcible penetration with a foreign object.

Commonly Asserted Defenses

Although each rape case is unique, those accused of rape in California often assert one of the following defenses:

  • I was falsely accused. Innocent people are frequently accused of committing rape in California, therefore, defendants accused of rape often defend themselves by claiming that the accuser made up false accusations.
  • I thought that the accuser consented. Here the defendant does not deny that they he or she intercourse with the accuser, but rather insists that he or she honestly and reasonably believed that the accuser consented to the act.
  • We did not have intercourse. Rape in California involves “sexual intercourse” so a defendant may argue that the sexual activity he or she took part in fell short of actual intercourse.
  • The prosecution has presented insufficient evidence against me. In rape cases, the prosecution bears the burden of proving their case. Therefore, defendants accused of rape can sometimes argue that they should not be convicted because the prosecution failed to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • Mistaken identity. A defendant accused of rape can also argue that he or she did not commit the crime and have fallen victim to a case of mistaken identity.

Do You Need Legal Representation?

If you have been accused of a rape crime in California you should be aware that if convicted you may be sentenced to serve hard time. Sex crimes are taken very seriously in our state and it is important that you retain a serious San Jose criminal defense lawyer who is committed to protecting your legal rights as soon as possible. Here at Jachimowicz Law Group our attorneys are highly-skilled at finding flaws in the cases presented against our clients and are committed to zealously defending the legal rights of each of our clients.








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