Date_rape_chargesPerhaps one of the biggest problems identified on college campuses today are incidents of rape among students. Many persons charged with such crimes claim that both parties were drunk and no force was used to the point where an injury occurred so therefore no rape had occurred. Such claims often times do not lead to a complete defense to sexual assault charges in California. In some cases, such as the Jeffrey Sanchez case in Fresno, claims of date rape can be refuted where an alleged victim claims they were given a date rape drug and the toxicology report shows a negative result (see There is no separate criminal charge called “date rape.” As such, whether you are a college coed or a local firefighter with no prior record, when you are charged with rape arising out of a consensual dating scenario, you are facing state prison if convicted and you should always confer with an experienced criminal lawyer to defend against such serious felony charges.

1. Rape Charges in California

Whether you are defending a case in West Covina, Palmdale, Ontario or any other county in California including Los Angeles, a charge of rape can be complicated to defend and often times over-zealous prosecutors will work very hard to secure a conviction.  However, many times a prosecutor will not be able to prove the elements necessary to obtain a conviction of rape against a criminal defendant in California.

Under California Penal Code section 261(a)(4), rape is defined as an act of sexual intercourse with another person not the spouse of the defendant when the alleged victim is unconscious at the time of the act and the defendant is aware that the alleged victim is unconscious at the time of the act. Many persons are charged with rape in so called “date rape” situations where the alleged victim claims they were unconscious due to being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  Under California Law the term “unconscious of the nature of the act” means that the alleged victim is incapable of resisting because the victim was unconscious, asleep and/or was not cognizant, perceiving, knowing or aware that the act occurred.

In defending such criminal charges in California it is always advisable to consult an experienced sexual assault criminal defense lawyer who can investigate thoroughly the allegations against a defendant in a rape case involving charges of date rape, including reviewing any rape kits taken of the alleged victim and importantly interviewing and calling any potential witness at trial who can testify as to an alleged victim’s mental state on the day or evening of an alleged assault.

2. Penalties for Sexual Assault Charges in California

If convicted of violating Penal Code section 261(a)(4) in California, a Defendant faces a state prison sentence.  Specifically, a sentence of rape in California can be three, six or eight years in state prison.  Moreover, if the victim is a minor, the minimum sentence is seven years in state prison with a maximum of up to 13 years and more in certain situations.  In addition, a rape conviction is a Strike under the California Three Strikes law and any subsequent conviction of a serious or violent felony in California can lead to a significant prison sentence in California, including a possible life sentence depending on the subsequent charges.

Often times persons face sexual assault or rape charges with no prior criminal record.  Such allegations can ruin a person’s life and a conviction will, in many cases, lead to a state prison sentence.  As such, when facing sexual assault or rape charges in California, one should always confer with a criminal lawyer to best determine how to defend such serious felony charges.