In Washington State, the difference between the terms “rape” and “sexual assault” is a semantic one. Washington’s criminal law has no crime defined as sexual assault. Instead, there’s a general category of sexual offenses, which includes various degrees of rape, and there’s also assault, which covers assault that stems from a sexual motivation.
What Are the Different Degrees of a Rape?
There are three degrees of rape in Washington State.
- First degree: This is a class A felony with maximum potential penalties of a life term in prison and/or fines of $50,000. It’s defined as:
- When the person accused of rape illegally entered a building or vehicle where the victim was located, used or threatened to use a deadly weapon (or something that appears to be a deadly weapon), kidnapped the victim, or caused serious physical injury which may or may not have caused the victim to become unconscious.
- Second degree: This is a class A felony. This is a class A felony with maximum potential penalties of a life term in prison and/or fines of $50,000. It’s defined as:
- When the person accused of rape had sex through forced compulsion, or when the victim was incapable of giving proper consent due to being physically helpless or mentally incapacitated.
- Third degree: This is a class C felony with maximum potential penalties of five years of prison and/or a fine of $10,000. It’s defined as:
- When the person accused of rape made threats of unlawful harm to the victim’s property rights or where sexual activity was done without consent in situations other than those described in the first and second-degree charges.
What Is Consent?
The first thing to understand about the crime of rape is that it’s based on the concept of consent. Someone who freely and willingly consents to sexual contact, either verbally or through actions and behavior, has consented to the sexual activity and is not thought to have been raped.
But that’s not always clear. Other factors include:
- Someone who gave consent while intoxicated with drugs or alcohol, was in a time of distress or was coerced, may be able to argue that they did not consent.
- People have the right to take back their consent, whether during the sexual act or at a subsequent time when the other person tries to initiate sex.
- It’s not a good idea to trust implied consent. Ask directly, and if the answer isn’t yes, don’t proceed.
Let Us Advise You
Sexual offenses can be complex and challenging to navigate. Call us at 253-383-3328 to learn how our attorneys’ experience can help someone accused of these offenses understand the laws and how to work within them.