Rape of a Child in the First, Second, and Third Degree
Tacoma Rape of a Child in the First, Second, and Third Degree
Washington law defines the offense of “rape” in several different ways, with the common factor being the lack of consent from the alleged victim. A rape charge may allege the use of force, the alleged victim’s inability to give consent due to a physical or mental condition, or the defendant’s abuse of a position of authority or power over the alleged victim. The offense of “rape of a child,” however, is defined solely by the alleged victim’s age. Below a certain age, the law presumes that a person cannot consent to sexual activity. Defending against a rape of a child charge can be very difficult, as the state has fewer factual matters that it must prove, and state law prevents a defendant from raising certain defenses. Anyone facing a charge of rape of a child should consult with a Washington criminal defense attorney immediately in order to prepare a defense and protect their rights.
Differences Between the Offenses of “Rape” and “Rape of a Child”
In any prosecution for rape, the state must first prove that the defendant and the alleged victim had sexual intercourse, which has its usual meaning but also includes any type of penetration of a person’s intimate areas. The state must also prove the alleged victim’s lack of consent and other circumstances of the offense. If lack of consent is based on a physical or mental condition that renders the alleged victim legally incapable of giving consent, a defendant may offer evidence of a reasonable belief that the alleged victim was not so impaired at the time of the offense.
The offense of “rape of a child” is based exclusively on the alleged victim’s and the defendant’s ages. It is sometimes called “statutory rape” because the alleged victim’s inability to consent is established by statute. Washington law specifically prohibits a defendant from claiming lack of knowledge of the alleged victim’s age, or a reasonable belief that the alleged victim was older except in very limited circumstances. The only exception provided in the statute applies when the alleged victim and defendant are married to one another when the alleged offense occurred.
Rape of a Child in the First Degree
First degree rape of a child is a class A felony, which has a maximum possible sentence of life imprisonment. State law defines it as sexual intercourse that occurs when the alleged victim is under the age of twelve and the defendant is at least two years older. A defendant may claim as a defense, with a preponderance of evidence, a reasonable belief that the alleged victim was at least twelve or that the age difference was less than two years. This defense would likely only reduce the offense to second degree rape of a child.
Rape of a Child in the Second Degree
If the alleged victim is twelve or thirteen years old, and the defendant is at least three years older, it is classified as second degree rape of a child. This is also a class A felony in Washington. A defendant may claim a similar defense regarding the alleged victim’s age or the age difference as in a case of alleged first degree rape of a child.
Rape of a Child in the Third Degree
Third degree rape of a child occurs when the alleged victim is fourteen or fifteen years old and the defendant is at least four years older. This is a class C felony, with a maximum possible sentence of five years in prison. Again, a defendant can offer the age or age difference defense.
If you have been charged with an alleged sex offense in western Washington, you should seek the assistance of an experienced Washington criminal defense lawyer. At the Law Office of Timothy L. Healy, we have defended people in Tacoma and the greater Pierce County area against charges of sex crimes and other alleged offenses since 1995. With our help, our clients have received significantly reduced sentences, probation, acquittals after trial, and outright dismissals. To schedule a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case, contact us today online or at (888) 312-3093.