Marital/Spousal Rape

Your side of the story matters.

Sometimes in a marriage or intimate relationship, things get out of hand. What started out as a positive and happy thing can take a dark or ugly turn. When that happens in this context, criminal accusations often do come into play.

Under California Penal Code 262 PC, non-consensual sex with a person – whether with a spouse or any person you are in an intimate relationship with – is considered rape in the state of California, and can lead to serious criminal consequences. Prison sentences for these types of offenses can range from 3 to 8 years. Even if no sex act occurred, but there was non-consensual touching of a spouse or intimate partner’s genitals, buttocks or breasts, under California Penal Code 243.4, an accused can be found culpable of sexual battery. While sexual batteries tend to have more lenient sentences (they are generally misdemeanors or “wobblers” at worst), they are still considered criminal acts and should be taken seriously.

The only real differences with marital/relationship rape and rape in other contexts are in the circumstances surrounding the offense. Typically, these types of situations arise between two individuals who already have a relationship – a shared history, sometimes a shared family – and therefore the stakes are high and cases should be handled by trained, knowledgeable attorneys who understand the system and the options available to defendants.

Marital rape is also unique in that often the circumstances are not as straightforward as other types of cases. Consider the example of a married man who coerces his wife into sexual relations with threats to her children. Or the married woman who threatens to divorce her husband and bankrupt him if he does not engage in sexual relations with her. While these examples may or may not rise to meet the legal definition of marital rape, they highlight how complex these types of cases can be.

Defenses to Relationship-Based Rape Charges

If you have been charged with a marital or relationship-based sex offense, it is critical that you find an attorney who will hear your story, understand the particular circumstances of your case, and has the knowledge and experience to navigate towards the best possible outcome for you.

Under California law, there are three main defenses to marital/relationship rape:

  • The accusations are false – Marriages and relationships are emotional institutions. They can be passionate and loving, but they can also be vengeful, jealous, irrational and vindictive. Sometimes, the intensity of these negative emotions can get the best of someone, and a desire to harm emerges. In the context of marital or relationship rape accusations, showing that the other person had reason to lie – and proving that they did in fact lie – about a lack of consent can present a powerful defense. An attorney who has dealt with these cases repeatedly can help spot discrepancies and build a strong defense in this way.
  • There was consent – In the context of marital rape, as long as the defendant sincerely believed he had consent at the outset of the sex act, then, for legal purposes, consent occurred. If consent occurred and then, for example, the accusing spouse claims he/she changed their mind mid-act, that change of heart has to be clearly communicated to the defendant for it to sufficiently meet the burden of a failure to consent. Similarly, if the defendant had good reason to believe she/he had consent – even if this was a mistaken belief – there is a strong possibility that consent will be found. An attorney well-versed in this area of law can make a compelling case that consent occurred under these circumstances.
  • There is insufficient evidence – In marital or relationship rape cases, lack or insufficiency of evidence can often be the best defense for the accused. The physical acts that lead to rape charges often happen in the family home, behind closed doors. There are rarely witnesses outside of the couple and often, there is no physical evidence to show what actually happened. The prosecution and defense attorneys are then left with who can make the best case for the truthfulness and credibility of each spouse’s account of what happened. When this occurs, a trained attorney who has extensive experience with these cases will know how best to relay the facts that are available to offer a solid defense.

Domestic Violence

Further complicating marital or relationship rape charges is the fact that these also sometimes implicate domestic violence protections in place under California law. Specifically, if the rape accusations also involve any claim of violence in the act, then the defendant could face additional charges under California Penal Code Section 273.5, the crime of corporal injury to an intimate partner. In these situations, corporal injury does not even need to be a visible injury but can be any injury that results in a “traumatic condition” in the partner – a rather vague definition that leads many a defendant into even more hot water with additional charges of domestic violence.

An attorney who understands the interplay of domestic violence and rape jurisprudence and how to manage the combination in a court of law, can be the difference between a harsh or a more lenient outcome for a defendant.

If you find yourself on the receiving end of marital or relationship rape or domestic violence charges, do not hesitate to contact criminal defense attorney Jerod Gunsberg in Los Angeles at (323) 633-3423 for a confidential consultation about your case or get in touch via the secure contact form on this page. Mr. Gunsberg and his associates are here to help. They will listen to your point of view and apply their extensive experience in this area to make the best of the case for you. When all you have is your word, let our attorney tell your story. Help is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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