Raping an intoxicated woman in California is an offense under Penal Code 261(a)(3). California law defines a PC 261(a)(3) violation as having non-consensual sexual intercourse knowingly with someone who is not your spouse and where the victim cannot resist due to their intoxication by substances such as drugs or alcohol.

An Overview of Anesthetic, Controlled, and Intoxicating Substances

Intoxicating Substances

According to California law, alcohol falls under the category of an "intoxicating" substance. In the context of rape, if you engage in sexual intercourse with another person who is prevented from resisting due to the influence of alcohol, it constitutes a serious offense. You face charges because your victim cannot give legal consent due to intoxication.

Anesthetic Substances

Anesthetic substances are also known as ‘rape drugs.’ They are used to impair a victim's ability to resist during sexual intercourse. These aesthetic substances encompass substances like Gamma-Hydroxybutyrate (GHB), rolhypnol, ecstasy, MDMA, or barbiturates.

Controlled Substances

The term "controlled substances" refers to all substances the government regulates. This includes substances ranging from narcotics to prescription medications, each subject to specific regulations.

In the context of rape, engaging in sexual acts with someone under the influence of a controlled substance without the ability to resist is a criminal offense.

The law considers your knowledge or reasonable awareness of the victim's state as crucial in determining guilt.

Definition of “Prevented from Resisting”

Under California law, if an individual is so intoxicated that they cannot give legal consent during sexual activity, they are considered “prevented from resisting.”

Legal consent, as the law outlines, involves exercising reasonable judgment. This includes understanding the physical nature of the sexual activity, its moral character, and the probable consequences.

Even if your victim verbally expresses consent, the court may still consider the act non-consensual if they were incapacitated to the point of being unable to make sound judgments.

The prosecutor can only determine whether the victim was prevented from resisting through circumstantial evidence. These factors include the following:

  • Loss of consciousness. Whether the victim passed out or had difficulty walking unaided.
  • Consensus among Witnesses. Agreement among people present that the victim needed to "sleep it off."
  • Post-Incident Actions. Placing the victim in a shower for cleanup after vomiting or exhibiting severe signs of intoxication.

Courts consider these circumstances to assess whether the victim's level of intoxication was such that they could not give legal consent. The court also evaluates the ability to provide legal consent by taking into account factors such as the victim's age, the amount of alcohol consumed, and the individual's maturity level.

Definition of Consent

Consent under California law is not merely the absence of resistance but requires affirmative action. Your victim not resisting physically does not constitute legal consent.

Age of Consent

California law sets the legal age of consent at 18 years. However, even if the victim is older than 18, the law stipulates that they must be of sound mind when agreeing to engage in sexual intercourse.

Intoxication and Legal Consent

When intoxication comes into play, the ability to give legal consent becomes a critical factor. If an individual is so intoxicated that they cannot exercise reasonable judgment, they are legally considered unable to provide consent.

The law recognizes that a person must understand the physical nature of the act, its moral character, and the probable consequences to give valid consent.

Elements Of The Crime Under Penal Code 261(a)(3)

For the prosecutor to bring forth charges under Penal Code 261(a)(3) and accuse you of raping an intoxicated woman, several key elements must be established beyond a reasonable doubt. The elements include the following:

  • Engaging in Sexual Intercourse. The prosecution must demonstrate that you engaged in sexual intercourse with another person who is not your spouse.
  • Influence of Intoxicating Substance. The victim must have been under the influence of an intoxicating or anesthetic substance, or any controlled substance, at the time of the sexual act.
  • Inability to Resist. The victim's state of intoxication must have been to the extent that they could not resist the actions of the accused. This is a critical component, emphasizing the incapacitation of the victim due to intoxication.
  • Knowledge of Intoxication. You must have known or reasonably should have known that the victim was in a state of intoxication, preventing them from resisting. This element focuses on your awareness regarding the victim's condition.

The charges you could face if accused of raping an intoxicated woman depend on several factors. The severity of the offense is assessed by considering the level of intoxication of the victim, the specific actions committed by the accused, and the overall context of the situation.

How to Know if Someone is Too Intoxicated to Consent

The legal standards for determining the ability of the plaintiff to give consent for the sexual intercourse between you and them revolve around their mental state. To provide legal consent, a person must be capable of exercising reasonable judgment.

You know that your victim is too intoxicated to consent when:

  • They have difficulty walking or are passed out.
  • They had to go to sleep so that they could sober up.
  • They vomited so much that they had to clean up.

Unlike some crimes that require specific intent, rape under California law is considered a general intent crime. This means that even if you did not know the act was rape, you can still be held guilty.

The prosecutor can only prosecute you if you knew or reasonably should have known that your victim was intoxicated to the point of being unable to resist or provide legal consent.

How is One Charged with Rape after Having Sexual Intercourse with a Drunk Person?

You could be charged with rape of an intoxicated woman if you engage in sexual intercourse with your victim after they have consumed a lot of alcohol and demonstrate indicators of intoxication. If the victim reports you to the authority, then you will be arrested, and your charges will be rape.

What Happens if You Were Also Drunk?

Under California law, rape is categorized as a general intent crime. This means that you do have to have a specific intent to be accused of raping. Instead, the focus is on the general intent of engaging in the sexual act itself.

The concept of general intent means that if you engage in sexual activities with an intoxicated person, you are considered guilty, irrespective of whether you knew it was rape or not.

Surprisingly, being drunk oneself does not serve as a defense in rape cases. This means that even if you were also intoxicated, engaging in sexual activities with an incapacitated person can still lead to serious legal consequences.

Can An Intoxicated Woman Give Consent?

When talking about intoxication in the context of sensual encounters, intoxication does not only mean that you have consumed a lot of alcohol or are under the influence of a particular drug.

It also means that you cannot provide reasonable judgment, comprehend the nature of the physical act you are about to engage in, or foresee the consequences of your actions.

Therefore, the law underscores that when a person is high or intoxicated, they are incapable of giving legal consent or refusing to engage in sexual activities.

If you engage in sensual activities with an intoxicated woman where you are aware or should be aware that they cannot consent, you commit a felony under California law.

Consequences of Violating Penal Code 261(a)(3)

A Penal Code Section 261(a)(3) violation is classified as a felony offense in California. If convicted, you could face prison time as part of your punishment. The duration of imprisonment is variable, offering a range of potential sentences based on the circumstances of your case:

  • A minimum term of three years in state prison.
  • An intermediate-term of six years in state prison.
  • The most severe punishment involves a maximum of eight years in state prison.

The variation in sentencing by the court is due to the factors that surround your case, such as your specific actions while engaging in the offense, the level of intoxication of the victim, and the overall context of the situation.

Mandatory Sex Offender Registration

In addition to imprisonment, a conviction under Penal Code Section 261(a)(3) mandates you to register as a sex offender. This registration requirement is a lifelong commitment, presenting social and career consequences that extend far beyond the completion of your prison term. This implies that if convicted of this felony, you must adhere to sex offender registration requirements for the entirety of your life.

Being labeled as a sex offender carries a significant stigma and can impact relationships, employment opportunities, and overall societal standing.

Legal Defenses to PC 261(a)(3) Charges

Seeing the severe consequences if convicted of violating PC 261(a)(3), you want to seek the legal counsel of an experienced attorney to help you fight the charges against you.

Your attorney will help you build solid defenses to help dismiss the charges against you or minimize the consequences if convicted. Your lawyer does this by identifying the weaknesses, inconsistencies, or gaps in the evidence presented by the prosecution. Your lawyer will challenge the accuracy or reliability of the evidence, creating reasonable doubt.

Some of the defenses include the following:

You Were Not Aware That the Victim was Intoxicated

You are only guilty of violating Penal Code 261(a)(3) if you knew or reasonably should have known that your victim was intoxicated to the point of being unable to resist having sexual intercourse with you.

However, if you did not know that the victim was intoxicated at the time of the sexual act, then you could argue that there were no definite indicators that the alleged victim was intoxicated to the level that they were prevented from resisting the sensual act between you two.

The Alleged Victim Consented to the Sensual Activity

Consent is a defense against Penal Code 261(a)(3) charges. You cannot be found guilty of violating PC 261(a)(3) if the victim gave their legal consent for the sensual act between you two to take place despite the intoxication.

Your lawyer could help present evidence in the form of videos, text messages or CCTV footage where the alleged victim gave any affirmative actions or verbal agreements that indicate their willingness to engage in sexual activity with you.

No Sexual Intercourse Took Place

You are only guilty of raping an intoxicated woman if sexual intercourse took place between you and your victim. However, If it can be demonstrated that there was no actual sexual contact between you and the alleged victim, it can undermine the entire case, leading to its dismissal.

Lack of Witness Credibility

One potent defense strategy involves challenging the credibility of witnesses, particularly the alleged victim. If your lawyer can establish inconsistencies or contradictions in the statements provided by witnesses, it can cast doubt on the reliability of the prosecution's case.

Alibi Defense

An alibi involves demonstrating that you were not present at the location where the alleged crime occurred during the relevant time. Witnesses, surveillance footage, or documented activities can be leveraged to establish a credible alibi.

You could argue that you were not in the vicinity of the crime area by presenting evidence such as CCTV footage, images of yourself, or witnesses who can vouch that you were not in that area.

Coercion or False Accusations

In many cases that involve PC 261(a)(3), the accused are often victims of false accusations. If that is your case, your lawyer could help you assert that the alleged victim made false accusations or was coerced into making a complaint against you.

Your lawyer could help you scrutinize the motives, statements or relationship between you and the alleged victim, aiming to expose the ulterior motives behind the accusations against you.

Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

Raping an intoxicated woman is a grave crime that is categorized as a felony. Therefore, you are advised to avoid having sexual intercourse with someone who is already drunk as they could be so intoxicated to the level that they are prevented from resisting your advances and also, they may not be in the right state of mind to give legal consent.

However, if you or a family member have been accused of violating Penal Code 261(a)(3), in that case, you want to seek the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney who will help you build solid defenses that will help dismiss the charges against you or lower the sentence.

At Foos Gavin Law Firm, we have lawyers ready to take on your case and help represent you in court. Contact us today at 916-779-3500 so that we can start working on your case.