Assault With Intent to Rape

A conviction for assault with intent to rape has serious consequences, including the possibility of a prison sentence. Additionally, a defendant convicted of assault with intent to rape will be required to register as a sex offender.

Elements of Assault with Intent to RapeIn order to convict a defendant of assault with intent to rape, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
  1. The defendant assaulted the alleged victim; and
  2. The defendant possessed the specific intent at the time of the assault to rape the alleged victim.

The Commonwealth proves an assault by establishing beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant (1) attempted to commit an assault and battery; or (2) attempted to place the alleged victim in fear of an assault and battery and engaged in some conduct which the alleged victim reasonably perceived as imminently threatening an assault and battery.

The Commonwealth proves a rape by establishing beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant (1) engaged in either natural or unnatural intercourse with the alleged victim; and (2) the defendant compelled the alleged victim to submit by force or threat of bodily injury and against his or her will.

Common Defenses and Defense Strategies

Assault with intent to rape cases can be defended in a variety of ways.

  • Accident - The Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intended to commit an assault. If the defendant accidentally placed somebody in fear of being the victim of an assault and battery, he or she is not guilty of assault. An “accident” is defined as an unexpected happening that occurs without intention or design on the defendant’s part. It is a sudden, unexpected event that takes place without the defendant’s intending it.
  • Self-Defense - A defendant is permitted to use reasonable force to defend himself or herself. If the defendant (1) reasonably believed he or she was being attacked or was about to be attacked and his or her personal safety was in immediate danger; (2) made every reasonable effort to avoid physical combat before resorting to force; and (3) used no more force than was reasonably necessary in the circumstances, then the defendant must be found not guilty of assault. There is a very similar defense of another person privilege.
  • Defendant’s Intent - The Commonwealth must prove that the defendant intended to rape the alleged victim as he was assaulting her. This element requires the jury to evaluate the circumstantial evidence and speculate about the defendant’s intent. Even if the Commonwealth has proven an assault, it is very difficult to prove that the defendant intended to rape the alleged victim during the commission of the assault.
  • Alleged Victim’s Criminal Record - If the alleged victim has a criminal record or a history of violence, Attorney Spring will attempt to present this information to the jury. Criminal convictions are generally admissible within a certain time frame (convictions for misdemeanors within the last five years are admissible; convictions for felonies within the last 10 years are admissible). History of violence evidence (also called “prior bad act” evidence) is generally admissible if the defendant is asserting self-defense. Attorney Spring has extensive experience litigating these types of issues.
  • Bias - In most assault with intent to rape cases that go to trial, there is bad blood between the defendant and the alleged victim. The alleged victim ordinarily wants to see the defendant convicted and punished. The alleged victim’s desire for revenge will be fully exposed on cross-examination.

Some alleged victims can refuse to testify because they have a Fifth Amendment Privilege. The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution states that no person can be forced to offer testimony that might incriminate himself or herself in a crime. Therefore, if an alleged victim struck the defendant during the alleged assault or if the alleged victim lied to the police about the facts of the case, that witness can assert his or her Fifth Amendment privilege and refuse to testify against the defendant.

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