Alabama has recently changed its laws pertaining to the crime of rape in the first degree.
There are three ways that the crime of rape in the first degree can be committed in Alabama.
The first way would be when a person engages in sexual intercourse with another person by forcible compulsion.
For this type of rape in the first degree to occur two elements must be met.
First, there must be "sexual intercourse". Under Alabama law sexual intercourse occurs when there is any penetration of the male sexual organ into that of the female sexual organ. To use an analogy, it's not necessary that a car go fully in the garage for "sexual intercourse" to have occurred; if only the bumper goes in the garage that counts as "sexual intercourse". So in a case where a young woman testified that the defendant "rubbed up against her privates" and she was not sure "if it went in" the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals upheld a finding by the jury that this constituted rape.
The next element is "forcible compulsion. The most common types of forcible compulsion include verbal or physical threats made to the victim with the intent to gain their acquiescence to sexual intercourse. Clearly, a person who threatens to harm the victim unless she acquiesces to sex has used "forcible compulsion".
Forcible compulsion would also occur even if no words were spoken if, for example, the defendant was threatening the victim with a weapon in order to gain acquiescence.
Alabama law also includes less obvious acts as "forcible compulsion". For example, Alabama law permits what is called "person in authority rape". Under this scenario, the person in a position of authority such as a college professor or an employer who uses that position of authority in order to gain acquiescence to sex that would not otherwise be available could be found guilty of the crime of rape in the first degree.
The second way the crime of rape in the first degree occurs is when a person engages in sexual intercourse with another person who is incapable of consent by reason of being incapacitated.
The key element here is that the victim is incapacitated. Under this section of the law, incapacity can take many forms. It includes a person who is mentally or developmentally disabled and lacks the requisite intelligence to knowingly consent. The term incapacitated also includes people who are temporarily incapable of either appraising or controlling the conduct as a result of the influence of either alcohol or some other incapacitating substance such as drugs. The third type of incapacitation is when somebody is physically incapacitated that is there either unconscious, asleep, or physically limited and unable to communicate whether or not they wish to engage in sex. Thus a person who is paralyzed to such a degree that they cannot consent to sex would be considered incapacitated and sex with a person such as this could result in charges for rape in the first degree.
The third way rape in the first degree is committed occurs when a person who is 16 years old or older engages in sexual intercourse with another person who is under the age of 12.
Rape in the first degree is a Class A felony. This means that the punishment range is from a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison to a maximum sentence of 99 years or life. In addition, a fine of up to $60,000 can be imposed. Anyone convicted of rape in the first degree is subject to what is known as the "SORNA" laws; this stands for the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act. Under this act, people convicted of sex crimes must register and comply with a specific set of laws that apply to them. In addition, the public is notified as to their criminal actions and they must comply with the SORNA laws; failure o do so could result in additional incarceration.
If you or someone you love is accused of rape, you should contact competent legal counsel as quickly as possible. If the crime occurred in North Alabama and you would like our assistance, please feel free to call us.