What Is the Penalty for Rape in Pennsylvania?

by | Sep 12, 2022

The maximum penalty for rape in Pennsylvania includes up to 20 years imprisonment and fines of $25,000. The Commonwealth charges rape as a first-degree felony. Penalties could significantly increase based on other factors, such as the complainant’s age and the presence of bodily injury.

In this article, the Philadelphia violent crimes defense lawyers at Shuttleworth Law PC discuss the potential penalties for rape in Pennsylvania by offense type. We conclude by sharing what it would take for prosecutors to get a conviction against you. Our firm wrote this post to explain the potential penalties on the line if the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is charging you with rape.

PA Rape Penalties by Offense Type

Pennsylvania grades the offense of rape as a first-degree felony. This level of grading is very high relative to other grading levels, such as lower felonies and misdemeanors. In fact, the only crime graded higher than a first-degree felony is first-degree murder.

Under 18 Pa.C.S. § 3121, the Commonwealth uses the following maximum sentencing standards if convicted of rape (according to the type of offense):

  • Rape: Up to 20 years in prison and $25,000 in fines
  • Rape with Intoxicants: Up to 30 years in prison and $125,000 in fines
  • Rape of a Child (under age 13): Up to 40 years in prison and $25,000 in fines
  • Rape of a Child with Serious Bodily Injury: Up to life in prison and $25,000 in fines

As you can see, Pennsylvania punishes rape convictions severely. If you accept responsibility for a crime that you did not commit or remains unproven by prosecutors, you could disrupt your entire future through decades of imprisonment and fine payments.

Sex Offender Registration Penalty

Sex offender registration is another potential penalty you could face for a rape conviction in PA. Under 42 Pa.C.S. § 9799.14, the Commonwealth could require you to register your name, location, photograph, and other personal details through a publicly accessible website that lists you as a Tier III sex offender every three months for the rest of your life.

A Tier III sex offender status has strict standards when it comes to meeting registration requirements. Plus, potential employers and landlords will have access to these records. Speak with a PA rape defense attorney as soon as possible if you want to defend yourself against a conviction that includes sex offender registration.

Other Types of Penalties

State sentencing guidelines and sex offender registration laws are not the only forms of punishment if convicted of rape. Even after getting out of prison and paying off your fines, there are other penalties associated with rape charges.

Other penalties associated with a rape conviction include:

  • Custody rights loss
  • Trouble finding a job
  • Challenges renting a home
  • Felony record
  • And more

These are often referred to as “collateral consequences” of a conviction, and they are often just as devastating as the conviction and sentence imposed by the court.

While all outcomes are unique, it is possible to conclude that a rape conviction could disrupt someone’s entire life. However, it is critical to understand that your charges are defensible since prosecutors hold the burden of proof. Therefore, they are responsible for proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, which is challenging in many situations.

What Does the Prosecution Need to Prove in a Rape Case in PA?

Prosecutors need to prove that your actions met the legal definition of rape to prove their case in PA. The same statute that establishes the maximum sentencing standards also defines the crime of rape.

By legal definition, a person commits rape when they engage in sexual intercourse with a complainant that is also:

  1. By force, or
  2. By threat of force, or
  3. Who is unconscious, or
  4. Who is involuntarily under intoxicants, or
  5. Who suffers from a mental disability

While these may seem like very straightforward scenarios, prosecutors must build a compelling case with admissible, discoverable evidence to secure a conviction. The ability to accomplish this outcome could be challenged if you hire legal counsel to execute a defensive strategy on your behalf.

Example of What PA Prosecutors Need to Prove

All criminal defense matters, including rape, are unique and carry their own set of facts. However, we can look at a hypothetical, high-level scenario to help you gain a better understanding of what it takes for prosecutors to get a rape conviction in Pennsylvania.

Here is an example: Let’s say that you are accused of raping someone at a party after spiking their drink. In this situation, the Commonwealth will need to prove that you were:

  1. Engaging in forced sexual intercourse, and
  2. Involuntarily intoxicating the complainant

When you look at these two elements separately, you can challenge the prosecutor’s theory from multiple angles. Maybe they have strong evidence that you spiked the complainant’s drink but have no proof whatsoever that you forced yourself of them at the party. In this situation, you should not face a PA rape conviction.

Discuss Your Case with a Rape Defense Attorney in Philadelphia

The situation that you or your loved one is facing is very serious. However, there may be several opportunities for you to get your rape charges dropped, dismissed, reduced, or won at trial. Building a defensive strategy with Philadelphia rape defense lawyers will help you protect your legal rights and challenge the prosecutor’s theory.

Shuttleworth Law PC has represented individuals facing some of the toughest charges. We want to hold the justice system to its promises and will not back down if it violates your civil rights, no matter what prosecutors are saying you did. Find out how our more than 17 years of experience, resources, and results could help you put more control back on your side of the case whether going to trial or taking a plea.

Call Shuttleworth Law PC for My Free Case Evaluation

We are ready to help you learn more about your charges. Call Shuttleworth Law PC at (215) 774-1371 to schedule your Free Case Evaluation. You are also welcome to message us directly via the contact form here.

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