A conviction for assault with intent to rape results in serious consequences, including the likelihood of a prison sentence. Additionally, a defendant convicted of assault with intent to rape will be required to register as a sex offender.
In order to convict a defendant of assault with intent to rape, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
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.
Assault with intent to rape cases can be defended in a variety of ways.
The prosecutor must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intended to commit an assault. Accidentally causing the alleged victim to be in fear of being sexually assaulted does not constitute the crime of assault with intent to rape. An “accident” is defined as an event that was unexpected and occurred without the defendant’s design or intent.
Anybody who is being physically attacked, or who has a reasonable belief that he is about to be physically attacked, has the legal right to use force to defend himself. A person in this position is required to make a reasonable effort to escape the situation (prior to using physical force). If escape is impossible, the person being attacked may use the minimum amount of force required to successfully defend himself. In addition, we all have the legal right to defend another person who is the victim of a physical attack.
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.
What happens when the alleged victim has a criminal record? Attorney Spring obtains copies of all alleged victims’ records and in some circumstances is permitted to share details of the criminal record with the jury. If the alleged victim has relatively recent convictions, they are often admissible for impeachment purposes. An alleged victim’s violent behavior may also be admissible to establish the identity of the first aggressor, even if the violent conduct did not result in criminal charges.
It makes sense that an alleged sexual assault victim will not have fond feelings for the defendant. The alleged victim wants the defendant to be found guilty and probably wants the defendant to go to jail. When the alleged victim is testifying, Attorney Spring will explore all issues of bias with her.
Suppose the alleged victim doesn’t have clean hands. What if she hit the defendant or otherwise assaulted him during the physical altercation? The Fifth Amendment to the federal constitution guarantees that no witness, including an alleged victim, can be required to testify if her truthful testimony would incriminate herself in a crime. Therefore, if the alleged victim put her hands on the defendant, lied to the cops, or committed any other crime during the incident, she has the right to assert her Fifth Amendment privilege and refuse to testify at the defendant’s trial.