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Loudoun County Attorneys > Blog > Criminal Defense > How Does Virginia Define & Punish Rape?

How Does Virginia Define & Punish Rape?


Rape is arguably the most serious sexual offense under the Virginia Criminal Code. From a larger-level standpoint, rape can occur as a result of force, threat, or intimidation. Though rape can also involve mentally incapacitated, physically helpless, or underage victims. Whatever the circumstances of a rape charge, the penalties are extremely severe under Virginia law, up to and including a life sentence in prison.

What is the Virginia Definition of Rape?

The definition of rape appears under Code of Virginia Section 18.2-61. This section makes it unlawful to engage in sexual intercourse:

  • Without the victim’s consent, using force, threat, or intimidation;
  • Taking advantage of the victim’s mental incapacity or physical helplessness; or
  • With a minor victim under the age of 13 years old.

That being said, it is vital to note a potential exception to Section 18.2-61. There is a rebuttable presumption that a child between the ages of 10 and 12 years old lacks the physical capacity to commit rape. Though as with other rebuttable presumptions under Virginia, it is possible to overcome with clear evidence indicating otherwise.

What is the Virginia Penalty for Rape?

The Virginia penalties for rape also appear under Section 18.2-61. At a minimum, rape is charged as a felony and punishable by imprisonment for five years to life.

On the other hand, there are special penalties in place for rape against a minor victim under the age of 13 years old. In these cases, if the perpetrator is:

  • At least three years older than the victim — There can be a mandatory minimum of 25 years in prison; or
  • At least 18 years old — There is a mandatory minimum of a life sentence in prison.

On a related note, Section 18.2-61 does allow for an alternate penalty for rape cases involving spouses. When a person commits rape against their spouse, the Virginia courts have discretion to suspend the criminal sentence and require therapy or counseling instead. But the courts must ensure that doing so will serve the best interests of the victim and promote maintenance of the family unit.

How Does Virginia Law Address Attempted Rape?

The approach to attempted rape appears under Code of Virginia Section 18.2-67.5. This section makes it unlawful to attempt to commit rape. In other words, there can be criminal charges for attempted rape, even if the perpetrator ultimately fails to complete the act.

The Virginia penalties for attempted rape also appear under Section 18.2-67.5. This section classifies attempted rape as a Class 4 felony. Upon conviction, the statutory penalties for a Class 4 felony in Virginia can include a prison sentence between two and 10 years as well as criminal fines up to $25,000.

Do You Need Legal Help?

If you have legal questions about criminal charges under Virginia law, it can be exceedingly constructive to schedule a consultation with a seasoned Leesburg criminal defense lawyer. Featuring more than 140 years of combined legal experience, the lawyers at Simms Showers LLP have the experience and skill needed to fight back against many types of criminal charges, including sexual offenses like rape. If you need legal help with criminal defense, contact us today for a free initial consultation.




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