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What is the Punishment for Rape in California?

Review of the Penalties for a PC 261 Rape Conviction

You'd be surprised that the punishment for a California Penal Code 261 PC rape case can vary so widely. I've been doing this now for 30 years and have handled many rape cases, and I've seen prosecutors seek punishments from prison time to probation, believe it or not.

I've had cases where the client has gotten no time in jail. It just depends on the circumstances of the alleged rape. It depends on the person's criminal record and if the person has a defense.

In some cases, the defendant has a defense, such as it's their word against the alleged victim's word, and the prosecutors realize they can very quickly lose the case.

Punishment for Rape in California

If they think they can lose but still think the person is guilty of rape, they may well make a probationary offer. 

On the other end of the spectrum are those cases where they're trying to seek prison time and long prison terms, which usually occurs in some violent rape situations, especially if the victim is young and the defendant is older.

I see many prosecutors and judges trying to seek prison time, and of course, they're going to look at the defendant's criminal record. 

If there are any sexual-related offenses in the past, you can bet your bottom dollar they will be seeking a prison sentence on a current rape charge. Our California sex crime defense lawyers are providing a closer review below.

What is the Definition of Rape?

California Penal Code 261 PC defines the felony crime of rape as follows:

  • “the act of sexual intercourse accomplished with a person, not the perpetrator's spouse, without their consent.”

Put simply, rape is sexual intercourse without lawful consent, which is required from both parties. Further, someone who initially permitted sexual intercourse can change their mind in the middle of having sex and withdraw consent.

Those differing ways in which perpetrators accomplish non-consensual sexual intercourse and Penal Code 261 has several forms of rape crime, such as:

  • Rape by Force or Threat – Penal Code 261(a)(2) PC;
  • Rape of the Mentally Disabled – Penal Code 261(a)(1) PC;
  • Rape of One Incapable of Consent – Penal Code 261(a)(3) PC;
  • Statutory Rape – Penal Code 261.5 PC;
  • Rape by Fraud or Artifice – Penal Code 261(a)(5) PC;

What are the Penalties for a Rape Conviction?

The bottom line is that you have to look at the facts and circumstances surrounding the case and whether or not the person has a defense. 

Penal Code 264 PC lays out punishment for rape by a penalty of:

  • three, six, or eight years in prison,
  • felony probation.

The penalties will increase to seven, nine, or eleven years in prison for the rape of a minor age 14 or older and to nine, eleven, or thirteen years for the rape of a minor under the age of 14.

Penalties for a Rape Conviction

If the victim sustained a significant bodily injury (GBI) during the commission of the crime, the penalty would include an additional 3 to 5 years in prison.

A defendant might be ordered to pay:

  • up to a $10,000 fine, and
  • receive a “strike” under California's Three Strikes law, and
  • register as a sex offender under Penal Code 290 PC.

That's another issue when it comes to punishment. There are probably about 5 to 6 factors that go to the judge, the prosecutor, and the defense attorney trying to figure out what punishment should be in a particular rape case. 

I've already mentioned a couple of them:

  • the person's criminal record, and
  • whether or not there's any brutal force involved in the rape situation.

Factors that Determine Rape Penalties

There are a lot of rapes that occur where there isn't any force -- for example, when they're claiming that a person is unconscious. 

In other words, someone taking drinks and drugs is passed out, and the defendant takes advantage of that and rapes the person. 

So, they're going to look at the force, the person's criminal record, and they're also going to look at the circumstances:

  • what happened?
  • why did it happen?
  • was it a date gone wrong where other people are drunk?
  • do the people know each other?

Or, is it a situation where the perpetrator tracks the victim down, follows them, goes into their house, and rapes them while they're asleep in their bed, which is much more difficult. Did the parties know each other? That's another thing they're going to look at in assessing whether or not they're going to try to send somebody to prison.

Just because you know the person, or even if it's your spouse or significant other, that doesn't mean you can rape them and force them, and prosecutors and judges are looking to see the circumstances.

I can tell you right now that there are a lot of rape allegations in Los Angeles, California. Some are valid; some are not valid. 

But I know there's a lot because it's a vast population, and I've been doing this a long time, so I see that this is probably one of the most charged sex crimes.

What Are California Crimes Related to Rape?

Defending Rape Allegations in California

So, if you're looking to try to avoid punishment, you're going to have to be able to be found not guilty of the rape charge; that's where a great criminal defense attorney comes in. 

Suppose you're looking to negotiate and try to keep out of prison or stay off of a sex registration situation. In that case, you still need a great criminal defense attorney to negotiate that for you.

Defending Rape Allegations in California

I meet people all the time. What my protocol is, if you're charged with rape, we have you come in, and we sit down in the privacy of my office. 

I encourage you to be honest with me and let me know what happened -- the good, the bad, and the ugly -- and we will discuss it and develop a realistic game plan based on my experience.

I have a pretty good feel for how these cases are prosecuted, what type of punishment judges are looking to dole out, and the best defense.

Just because we say the defense doesn't necessarily mean that the person is innocent.  Sometimes people are ignorant and need to go to trial and fight and win. 

Other times, we're putting on defense to mitigate things to lessen their sentence, keep the person out of prison, and reduce the impact on their lives.

So, if you or a loved one is charged with rape in Los Angeles, California, pick up the phone now. Make the call. Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. I stand at the ready to help you. Hedding Law Firm offers a free case evaluation to review all the details of your case and review the best legal options moving forward.

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Hedding Law Firm is committed to answering your questions about state or federal sex crime issues in California and throughout the United States.

I'll privately discuss your case with you at your convenience. All consultations are free, discreet, and confidential. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.