While two partners may coexist in the same space and lead a life together, each party is still entitled to privacy and bodily autonomy. The law prohibits you from forcing your spouse to have sexual intercourse, making it a criminal offense under the California rape laws. Based on this, you may face criminal charges for having sexual intercourse with your spouse without their consent. Upon facing the charges, you need to consult a criminal defense attorney to help you understand the charges and how to navigate them. Additionally, their input should help you prepare a solid defense case to raise your chances of a favorable outcome. 

Spousal rape is considered a serious offense, so you must work with a skilled and experienced party to help you understand the case specifics and react accordingly. With a skilled attorney’s help, you can anticipate the prosecutor’s strategy and justify your position by introducing a unique argument. The steps toward filing a strong defense all boil down to whether you understand what is considered spousal rape. 

What the Offense Entails 

Spousal rape was a criminal offense prohibited under Section 262 of the California Penal Code, which previously made it an offense to commit rape against a spouse. However, the law has since been repealed and replaced by Assembly Bill Number 1171, consolidating all rape cases under one legal provision. 

Based on the changes, spousal rape cases fall within the general scope of rape charges under Section 261 of the Penal Code. An accused person is still answerable for the specific offense committed against the spouse, but the prosecutor uses Section 261 provisions to prepare the case. 

A spousal rape charge involves using force or threats against your spouse to make them accept having sexual intercourse with you. The law prohibits this conduct despite people being married to protect human rights, as parties should still be entitled to their autonomy regardless of marital status. 

Consent is central to all spousal rape charges, and the prosecutor’s case is based on the lack of consent throughout your course of action. Due to this, you should consult your criminal defense attorney to determine the strength of the prosecutor’s case and the quality of the evidence they have against you. 

Making early preparations before your criminal trial is necessary because you can anticipate and counter the prosecutor’s strategy. Spousal rape charges also require you to conduct thorough research on the technical aspects of consent and spousal relationships to help you raise credible defenses. 

Criminal Elements for the Prosecutor to Prove 

When your case advances to trial, the prosecutor is responsible for presenting the accusations made against you formally before the judge and jury. Legal procedures also require the prosecutor to bear the burden of proof, making them responsible for demonstrating your guilty involvement in the crime. 

Additionally, the judge and jury can only determine if the prosecutor meets the standard of proof applicable in criminal cases. The prosecution team must establish your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to avoid incriminating and convicting you unfairly. 

During the trial, the prosecutor must prove the following elements of the crime for their case to be successful: 

You had Sexual Intercourse 

The offense is founded on your actions to have sexual intercourse without consent, so the prosecutor must establish that the act occurred. Sexual intercourse refers to any penetration of the general organs, regardless of how slight it is. A male accused also does not have to ejaculate for sexual intercourse to have taken place, so the prosecutor can still present a solid case even if the penetration was brief. 

Evidential sources to demonstrate that penetration occurs are available but vary depending on the victim’s gender. If the victim is female, they may undergo a medical examination to retrieve the offender’s DNA traces in their vaginal tract. On the other hand, a male victim may request alternative medical checks that indicate sexual abuse or violence, depending on the perpetrator’s actions against them. 

Additional residential sources include witness statements from anyone who overheard commotion or resistance from the victim. Home surveillance footage may also be beneficial if it recaps the events leading up to the forced sexual intercourse. 

You Used Force, Threats or Fraud Against the Victim 

The prosecutor must also demonstrate that the sexual intercourse was non-consensual, meaning that you violated the victim’s bodily autonomy. They do this by demonstrating your participation in any of the following actions: 

  • Using Physical Force to Make Them Comply 

Many spousal rape cases involve physical violence, translating to domestic violence scenarios for affected parties. The stronger party is more likely to use physical force against the victim based on their physical advantage, resulting in spousal rape. However, some cases may also involve the typically ‘smaller’ party using harmful objects or deadly weapons to force the victim into compliance. 

During the trial, the prosecutor is likely to rely on the victim’s testimony as the main source of evidence because the incident may have occurred without anyone else. Your defense attorney pays close attention to what the alleged victim states, as they can use the information during cross-examination to cast reasonable doubt. 

Alternative evidential sources like medical records, recorded calls from an emergency response team, and surveillance footage can also help solidify the prosecutor’s case if the information shows that physical violence was used. 

  • Using Drugs or Alcohol to Subdue the Victim 

Some couples may use drugs, prescription medication, or alcohol to subdue the vulnerable partner, resulting in spousal rape. The prosecutor aims to show that your goal was to have the victim pass out, become too intoxicated to understand what was happening or resist your advances. 

Using alcohol or drugs to make your spouse accept your sexual advances may also involve other factors, like lying to them that the food or drinks they consumed were safe. Fraud is common if your case involves allegedly drugging the victim, and you can expect the prosecutor to retrieve the relevant information. 

To support their case, the prosecutor may obtain your purchase records for the item in question to justify your criminal intention. For example, if you purchased a drug known to cause drowsiness and reduced reflex responses, the prosecution team can retrieve information to justify the claim that you intended to drug your spouse. 

Refilling a prescription bottle containing sedatives or any other drug likely to cause unconsciousness or dissociation is also incriminating. If the investigation team retrieves receipts or empty bottles indicating unusual drug intake, they can link it to your unlawful intentions. 

  • Threatening to Harm or Kill the Victim 

Threats are also a common tactic that the prosecutor may look out for when handling spousal rape cases. Arrested parties often resort to threats because they know their spouses’ behaviors and possible reactions, making them more likely to impose their demands on the victim. 

If you face accusations of threatening your spouse, you can expect the victim to provide witness testimony on the specific actions you contemplated. For example, if you threatened to kill your spouse if they refused to have sex with you, the court would qualify it as a valid tactic to take away the victim’s consent. 

Similarly, threatening to harm the victim is a serious threat likely to force them into accepting your advances. The prosecutor will, therefore, retrieve recorded auditions, footage, and witness statements demonstrating your forceful approach. If the audio and video footage are clear, it becomes highly persuasive evidence against you, so your defense attorney must prepare a solid defense to counter it. 

  • Emotional or Financial Manipulation Against the Victim 

Emotional, psychological, and financial manipulation tactics commonly result in spousal rape, especially where one spouse has a higher power position in the relationship. For example, if you are the family breadwinner, you may face accusations of financially manipulating your spouse into having sexual intercourse. 

Financial manipulation often involves denying or threatening to deny the victim access to cash, even for essential needs, unless they meet your demands. Similarly, emotional manipulation involves presenting yourself as the victim to make your spouse feel sorry and comply with your sexual demands. Psychological manipulation involves demeaning the victim and making your opinion of them paramount, making them more likely to accept your demands. 

In court, the prosecutor may present expert opinion evidence from a psychologist to help contextualize your actions for the jury and judge. Based on their assessment of your behavioral patterns, they may conclude that your manipulation prevents the victim from consenting or refusing sexual advances, resulting in marital rape. 

The Alleged Victim is Your Spouse 

Since spousal rape is victim-specific, the prosecutor should show you have a marital relationship with the victim. They do this to ensure the judge issues the correct sentence if they find you guilty, as the penalties vary based on the case circumstances. 

Establishing an existing marital status involves obtaining your marriage certificate and other evidence sources supporting the assertion. For example, wedding and family photos and witness statements from people who know you are useful for the prosecutor’s case. 

Defenses for Committing Spousal Rape 

While the prosecutor may present a solid case, you can counter their accusations and present a new argument strategy to persuade the court of your innocence. You can do this during the defense hearing with your criminal attorney’s help to raise your chances of a favorable case outcome. 

Choosing suitable defenses to counter the prosecutor’s case is advisable, and the prosecutor’s accusation should provide a starting point. Identifying the key points to counter is beneficial because it allows you to cast reasonable doubt. 

Some applicable defenses in a spousal rape case include: 

Your Spouse Gave Consent 

Since consent is central to both parties’ arguments, you can use it to counter the prosecutor’s case. Your main claim is that your spouse consented to having sexual intercourse, making the case before you unfair. 

Consent is only valid if your spouse acted voluntarily and was free to decide. They must also be aware of what is happening to empower them to make an informed decision. 

Based on these standards, you must provide evidence to support your position and to demonstrate that your spouse agreed to sexual intercourse. For example, you can play it in court if you have recorded audio that captured your conversation before the alleged rape. The jury can assess the party’s tone and words to determine whether their voluntary nature is depicted. 

Additional evidential sources to rely on include texts, emails, or other communication modes you and your spouse used to express consent. By presenting these communication records, you clear up doubts and accusations taken out of context. 

You Did Not Have Sexual Intercourse 

The trial process relies on technicalities, so you can also use technical details on what sexual intercourse entails to avoid legal consequences. You can only use this defense if you did not penetrate the victim, rendering the prosecutor’s claims untrue. 

You can also challenge the validity of medical records that claim your DNA traces were recorded from the victim if you strongly believe they were fabricated. In doing so, you cast reasonable doubt on the prosecutor’s case. 

You Face False Accusations 

Malicious parties may file a false case against you to undermine your character and integrity. If so, you can raise a counterargument to their claims and provide supporting evidence that you are facing false accusations. 

When raising this defense, you should work closely with your defense attorney to obtain as much evidence against the perpetrators as possible for credibility. 

Penalties for Committing Spousal Rape 

Parties found guilty of spousal rape face felony penalties. They include; 

  • A jail sentence of up to eight years in state prison.
  • A fine of up to $10,000.
  • Registration as a sex offender.
  • Deportation and receiving an ‘inadmissible’ status for non-citizens. 

Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me 

Facing spousal rape charges can harm you, mainly because you risk facing serious criminal penalties. The offense involves violating your spouse’s personal space and body autonomy by forcibly having sexual intercourse. Once the investigation officers forward your case to the prosecutor, they begin their investigation, advising you to prepare for the upcoming hearings. Working with a criminal defense attorney is advisable, as they can help you assess your case and determine the most suitable arguments to present. With their help, you should develop a strong defense case that will hopefully persuade the judge and jury of your innocence. 

At Foos Gavin Law Firm, you work with a highly experienced and skilled team of attorneys ready to guide you through the criminal trial. Our team consists of experienced attorneys equipped to assess each case based on its unique facts and present solutions. You can also count on us to provide legal guidance beyond your case analysis to help you have an easy experience even after your release pending trial. Our team is available to provide legal advice for anyone facing spousal rape charges in Sacramento, California, and you can reach us for more information about the charge at 916-779-3500.