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Criminal charges


A person generally commits the criminal offense of rape by using force, threats of force, coercion, or fraud to have non-consensual sexual intercourse with another person. In some states this criminal offense is called sexual assault. Rape is a felony offense with significant jail or prison time as potential punishment.

Laws vary from state to state and some state laws also include in the definition of rape sexual intercourse with a person who is intoxicated by drugs or alcohol, unconscious, or mentally disabled and unable to consent to the sexual intercourse. And some states have a broad definition of the lack of consent to sexual contact constituting rape and include sexual contact with public servants (police officers, etc.), members of the clergy, mental health service providers, and employees of assisted living centers or nursing homes as lacking consent under some circumstances.

In some states it is rape or sexual assault for a health care services provider performing an assisted reproduction procedure to use human reproductive material from a donor other than the patient’s intended donor.

Rape or sexual assault laws are generally located in a state’s statutes—often in the penal or criminal code.

In Texas, the criminal offense traditionally known as 'rape' is legally referred to as 'sexual assault.' According to Texas Penal Code Section 22.011, a person commits sexual assault if they intentionally or knowingly cause the penetration of the anus or sexual organ of another person by any means, without that person's consent. Consent is not present if it is obtained through force, threat, or fraud. Texas law also recognizes the lack of capacity to consent due to intoxication, unconsciousness, or mental disability. Furthermore, Texas law includes provisions where sexual assault can occur if the victim is unable to resist or understand the nature of the act due to a mental disease or defect. The state also considers it sexual assault if the perpetrator is a public servant, health care services provider, mental health services provider, or an employee at a facility such as an assisted living or nursing home and exploits their position to coerce the victim into non-consensual sexual activity. Sexual assault is a second-degree felony in Texas, which can result in significant jail time, fines, and mandatory registration as a sex offender. The specific circumstances of the offense can elevate the charge to a first-degree felony, which carries even harsher penalties.

Texas Statutes & Rules

Federal Statutes & Rules

18 U.S. Code § 2241 - Aggravated sexual abuse
This federal statute is relevant as it defines the crime of aggravated sexual abuse, which can include acts that would also be considered rape or sexual assault under state laws.

Under 18 U.S. Code § 2241, a person commits aggravated sexual abuse by knowingly causing another person to engage in a sexual act by using force against that person, or by threatening or placing that person in fear that any person will be subjected to death, serious bodily injury, or kidnapping. Additionally, it covers situations where the victim is rendered unconscious or where the perpetrator administers drugs, intoxicants, or other similar substances that substantially impair the ability of the person to appraise or control conduct. The statute also addresses sexual acts with someone who is under the custodial, supervisory, or disciplinary authority of the actor. The punishment for aggravated sexual abuse is a fine, imprisonment for any term of years or life, or both.

18 U.S. Code § 2242 - Sexual abuse
This statute is relevant as it provides the federal definition of sexual abuse, which can encompass certain acts of rape or sexual assault as defined by state laws.

According to 18 U.S. Code § 2242, sexual abuse occurs when a person knowingly causes another person to engage in a sexual act by threatening or placing that person in fear (other than by force or threat of force). It also includes cases where the person is incapable of appraising the nature of the conduct or physically incapable of declining participation or communicating unwillingness to engage in the sexual act. The penalties for sexual abuse can include fines and imprisonment for any term of years or for life.

18 U.S. Code § 2243 - Sexual abuse of a minor or ward
This statute is relevant as it specifically addresses sexual abuse involving minors or wards, which can be related to statutory rape laws at the state level.

Under 18 U.S. Code § 2243, it is a crime for any person to knowingly engage in a sexual act with a minor who is at least 12 years old but under 16 years old, if the perpetrator is at least four years older than the minor. It also covers sexual abuse of a ward by a person in a position of trust with respect to the ward. Penalties for sexual abuse of a minor or ward include fines and imprisonment for up to 15 years.

18 U.S. Code § 2244 - Abusive sexual contact
This statute is relevant as it addresses situations of abusive sexual contact, which may not rise to the level of rape but are still considered criminal offenses under federal law.

18 U.S. Code § 2244 criminalizes knowingly engaging in or causing sexual contact with or by another person, if the contact is done with an intent to abuse, humiliate, harass, degrade, or arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person, and under the circumstances described in the statutes covering aggravated sexual abuse, sexual abuse, or sexual abuse of a minor or ward. The statute also includes provisions for cases where the victim is unaware that a sexual act is being committed upon them or where the perpetrator has misled the victim to believe that the person is someone else. Penalties vary depending on the specific circumstances but can include fines and imprisonment.

18 U.S. Code § 2245 - Offenses resulting in death
This statute is relevant as it outlines the consequences when a sexual abuse offense results in the death of the victim.

Per 18 U.S. Code § 2245, if a person commits sexual abuse (including aggravated sexual abuse) and the act results in the death of the victim, the perpetrator can be punished by death or by imprisonment for any term of years or for life.

18 U.S. Code § 2261A - Stalking
While not directly related to rape or sexual assault, this statute is relevant as stalking behavior can be associated with or lead to such offenses.

18 U.S. Code § 2261A makes it a federal crime to engage in stalking, which can include behavior that intends to kill, injure, harass, intimidate, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person by placing that person or a member of their immediate family in fear of death or serious bodily injury. The statute also covers stalking through the use of electronic communication systems. Penalties for stalking can include fines and imprisonment.