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What Are the Best Legal Defenses for Rape Cases?

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding | Jul 29, 2022

I've been handling sex crimes, specifically Penal Code 261 PC rape cases, for over 30 years. One of the ideas you should consider if you're trying to defend yourself or negotiate a plea bargain is looking at precisely what happened. 

You want first to lay out your defense and then look and see what is going on with the other side – what are they claiming that you did? Once you have that laid out, you can begin the process of determining what types of strategies you might employ.

Best Legal Defenses for Rape Cases

If the other person claimed that they drank a lot and they don't remember what happened and that you took advantage of them, for example, you're going to want to put your side of the story.

Maybe you were drinking as well; maybe during the drinking, the other party was coming on to you, so you believe that it was consensual, and the other person either can't remember or is making up a story for whatever reason.

It's considered a lack of consent when the alleged victim is incapable of giving consent due to intoxication, lack of consciousness, or in some cases, a mental illness.

Also, any person who initially gives consent to have sexual intercourse can change their mind during sex and withdraw consent. Legally, “consent” means cooperation in an act or attitude as an exercise of free will, meaning a voluntary deed. In this article by our California sex crime defense lawyers, we will examine this topic further below.

What is the Legal Definition of Penal Code 261 PC Rape?

The felony crime of rape is defined under California Penal Code 261 PC as non-consensual sexual intercourse by use of force, threats, or fraud. To be arrested, charged, and convicted of rape, you don't always have to use physical force to complete the act of sexual intercourse, for instance:

  • The victim was unconscious,
  • The victim couldn't consent due to intoxication,
  • The victim had a mental illness and was incapable of giving sexual consent.

What does this mean? It means you could be charged with PC 261 rape in situations where sexual intercourse occurred against someone's will or without consent.

Rape could also be filed if the act was completed using coercion, fear of bodily harm, retaliation, or fraud. Penal Code261 PC legally defines rape as:

  • “An act of sexual intercourse that was accomplished with someone who is not the perpetrator's spouse, under certain circumstances.”

The “certain circumstances” in the definition that could lead to rape charges include the following situations:

  • Using physical force or violence against the victim,
  • Using duress to coerce the victim into sexual intercourse,
  • Menace, a threat or act showing an intent to cause injury,
  • Causing fear of bodily harm or retaliation using threats,  
  • Using fraud by using trickery or deceit to convince a victim to engage in sexual intercourse with you.

What Are the Related California Crimes?

Real Case Example

I remember I had a case years ago.  It was in the Pomona courthouse, which is a very tough jurisdiction.  The client was charged with rape. 

He was an athlete, and he had met the woman on the road while they were driving, and they decided to get together that day.  He went and got drinks.  They both drank, and everything seemed fine.  She invited him back to her place. 

He left at one point to go to the liquor store to get drinks.  He came back again, so it didn't make any sense why she was claiming that he raped her, and once I did the cross-examination on her in front of the jury, the jury saw that her story didn't make sense and that my client didn't do anything wrong.

Somebody might have a perception of something, and that could be a wrong perception, and the party that's being accused may not have not anything illegal.  Just because somebody else thinks somebody did something bad doesn't necessarily mean that that's true.

Examination of the Facts to Determine Rape Defense Strategy

So, when you talk about ideas for defending rape cases, you've got to look at the facts of the case, and you've got to decide what would a jury do if they looked at the evidence?

Defending Rape Charges in California

In this case that I mentioned as an example, the jury found my client not guilty within an hour, and it was because the alleged victim's story didn't make sense.  My client didn't do anything.  He didn't sneak in anywhere.  Everything looked consensual.  So, a jury is going to be fair.  They're going to look at all of the facts.

If, on the other hand, there are some terrible facts related to your case, we've got to flush those out as well – look at them and see how a jury would view those alarming facts and then make the decision whether or not you're going to go to trial. 

So, I think your first step is to lay out all of the facts with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Then, you can begin talking about what the prosecutor will use to prove that you committed rape and what you might be able to use to defend yourself and then decide what a jury would do. 

Once they are given that jury instruction for rape, how are they going to meet those facts with the elements of the crime of rape:

  • Are the facts there?
  • Are they believable?
  • Does it make sense?
  • Did you do anything wrong?
  • Did you make a mistake related to what happened, and is that mistake big enough to get you convicted of the crime of rape?

Then, if we decide it's not a good idea to go to trial because you're going to lose probably, now we've got to get some mitigating stuff together for you:

  • character letters
  • show your side of the story about what happened
  • look at your criminal record

We will look at your past and try to use some of those things to paint a picture of you so that the prosecutor and judge will give you a break and you can avoid some of the horrible consequences of a rape conviction.

So, if you want the best, you've come to the right place.  Pick up the phone now.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.  I stand at the ready to help you. The Hedding Law Firm offers a free case review by phone or use the contact form.

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About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding

What Makes Ronald Hedding Uniquely Qualified To Represent You? I've been practicing criminal defense for almost 30 years and have handled thousands of cases, including all types of state and federal sex crime cases. All consultations are discreet and confidential.

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