Understanding the Different Degrees of Rape in Washington
Washington rape law is complicated.
First we need to distinguish Rape from Rape of a Child, which used to be known as statutory rape. Here we’re going to explain Rape; to understand Rape of a Child, look here for three important things you should know.
Rape is defined in Washington to have three categories, or degrees. All three categories of rape require that there was sexual intercourse. In Washington law, “sexual intercourse” means more than it does in normal conversation. It includes:
- what we ordinarily think of as sexual intercourse, occurring upon any penetration, however slight;
- Any penetration of the vagina or anus by an object, when committed on one person by another;
- Any act of sexual contact between persons involving the sex organs of one person and the mouth or anus of another.
Rape in the First Degree
1st degree rape is the most serious charge of the three. It can only be committed by a person who engages in sexual intercourse with another person by forcible compulsion. Forcible compulsion means:
- Physical force which overcomes resistance;
- A threat, express or implied, that places a person in fear of death or physical injury to herself or himself or another person; or
- A threat, express or implied, that places a person in fear that she or he or another person will be kidnapped.
To commit 1st degree rape, the person or an accomplice must also do at least one of the following:
- Use or threaten to use a deadly weapon or what appears to be a deadly weapon;
- Kidnap the victim;
- Inflict serious physical injury, including but not limited to physical injury which renders the victim unconscious;
- Feloniously enter into a building or vehicle where the victim is situated.
Rape in the First Degree is a Class A felony, which means its maximum sentence is life in prison.
The statute of limitations for a crime sets a limit on how long after the offense charges can be brought. The statute of limitations for 1st degree rape is 20 years unless the victim was younger than 16, in which case there is no time limit.
Rape in the Second Degree
2nd degree rape is a broad category. It can be committed in a wide variety of ways.
One way to commit 2nd degree rape is to have sexual intercourse with another person by forcible compulsion. That suffices for 2nd degree rape; it needs none of the additional actions listed above that make out 1st degree rape.
2nd degree rape is also committed in a variety of situations where the person with whom the perpetrator has intercourse might be categorized as “vulnerable” or there seems to be a power imbalance:
- When the victim is incapable of consent because physically helpless or mentally incapacitated (perhaps from alcohol intoxication);
- When the victim has a developmental disability and the perpetrator has supervisory authority over the victim or was providing transportation within the course of employment;
- When the perpetrator has intercourse with the victim while providing health care treatment, though the accused can raise as a defense that the client or patient consented to intercourse with knowledge that it wasn’t for the purpose of treatment;
- When the perpetrator has supervisory authority over the victim while the victim resides in a facility for persons with mental disorder or chemical dependency;
- When the victim is a frail elder or vulnerable adult, and the perpetrator is not married to the victim and either has a significant relationship with the victim or was providing transportation to the victim at the time of the crime.
“Frail elder or vulnerable adult” means a person 60 or older who lacks the mental or physical ability to care for himself or herself; a person found to be incapacitated by a court; a person at least eighteen who has a developmental disability; a person admitted to a long-term care facility; or a person receiving services from a home care or hospice agency.
Like 1st degree rape, rape in the 2nd degree is a Class A felony, which means it carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. It also has a statute of limitations of 20 years unless the victim was younger than 16, in which case there is no time limit.
Rape in the Third Degree
3rd degree rape includes sexual intercourse where:
- The victim did not consent to sexual intercourse, or
- There is a threat of substantial unlawful harm to property rights of the victim.
Washington law defines consent as “actual words or conduct indicating freely given agreement to have sexual intercourse.” Consent (or lack of it) can be expressed with or without words.
Rape in the 3rd degree is a Class C felony, so its maximum penalty is 5 years in prison. The statute of limitations is 10 years.
If you are facing accusations of rape, the Marshall Defense Firm is here to help. Our experienced, skilled defense attorneys would be happy to discuss the matter with you. Please contact us at 206.826.1400 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a consultation.