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More than 1,200 sexual assault survivors helped since 2023.

What is First-Degree Rape?

Rape in the first degree is a specific criminal charge and typically refers to the most severe offenses including violence and against minors.

Survivor Advocate

Key Takeaways

  • In the United States, first-degree rape generally refers to the most severe criminal charge for rape
  • Criminal penalties for first-degree rape vary by state and can include life imprisonment or even capital punishment in severe cases
  • If you believe you have experienced sexual assault or rape, you can seek help to understand your rights and options

What is First-Degree Rape?

First-degree rape is the most severe category of rape in the US. It often involves force or violence. The definition of first-degree rape varies from state to state, as do the penalties and the category of crime it falls under.

Legal Definition of First-Degree Rape in the United States

In 2012, the US Department of Justice updated the federal definition of rape. The previous definition of forcible rape from 1927 only recognized male-on-female forced penetration.

The new definition is gender inclusive for the victim and perpetrator. It also recognizes oral penetration rape and rape with an object. Also recognized are instances when the victim cannot consent for reasons including intoxication, age, and temporary or permanent mental or physical incapacitation. The definition of consent and the ability of the victim to consent is determine by the laws in that state.

Additionally, the new definition does not require the victim to resist physically to prove a lack of consent. Rather, it recognizes that consent is not assumed.

Potential Penalties for First-Degree Rape in the United States

The penalties for first-degree rape vary by state. They can include life imprisonment with hard labor and, in some cases, capital punishment.

The following allows for a comparison of various first-degree rape laws in US states. It lists the offense’s name, a link to its statute, an offense summary, its category, and the associated penalty.

You can check the full legal definition of rape in your state and other related policies by entering your state into RAINN’s State Law Report Generator.

Last Date Modified
May 16, 2024

Comparison of Legal Definitions of First-Degree Rape by State

Name: Rape First Degree (Forcible Compulsion)

Summary: Sexual intercourse by forcible compulsion, sexual intercourse with an incapacitated victim incapable of consent, or sexual intercourse between someone 16 years or older and a victim under 12 years old.

Category: Class A felony

Penalty: 10 to 99 years imprisonment and fines up to $60,000

Name: Sexual assault in the first degree

Summary: 1) Nonconsensual sexual penetration, 2) attempted nonconsensual sexual penetration resulting in serious physical injury to the victim, or 3) sexual penetration with a victim who is mentally incapable and in the offender’s care or a state-licensed program or facility.

Category: Felony

Penalty: Up to 99 years imprisonment, depending on case details

Name: Sexual Assault

Summary: Nonconsensual sexual intercourse.

Category: Class 2 felony

Penalty: Up to 28 years imprisonment; aggravating factors can increase the penalty to life imprisonment

Name: Rape

Summary: Sexual intercourse 1) by force; 2) when the victim is physically or mentally incapable of consent; 3) when the victim is under 14 years old; or 4) when the victim is a minor, and the offender is a relative or guardian.

Category: Class Y felony

Penalty: Up to 40 years imprisonment; life imprisonment for the forcible rape of a minor by an adult

Name: Rape

Summary: Sexual intercourse under specific circumstances, such as force, being incapable of consenting, or inability to resist due to intoxication. All forms of nonconsensual sexual assault may be considered rape.

Category: Misdemeanor or felony, depending on factors

Penalty: Up to life imprisonment, depending on aggravating factors

Name: Sexual Assault

Summary: Sexual penetration or sexual intrusion under certain circumstances, such as the offender causing the victim to submit or the offender knowing the victim is incapable of understanding the nature of the act. This crime becomes aggravated if certain factors enter the case, such as physical force, violence, serious threats, or drugging.

Category: Class 4 felony; class 3 felony; class 2 felony

Penalty:

  • Class 4 felony: two to six years imprisonment and up to a $500,000 fine
  • Class 3 felony: four to 12 years imprisonment and up to a $750,000 fine
  • Class 2 felony: eight to 24 years imprisonment and up to a $1,000,000 fine

Name: Sexual assault in the first degree

Summary: The offender 1) compels the victim to engage in sexual intercourse by force or the threat of force; 2) engages in sexual intercourse with a minor under 13 years old and is more than two years older than their victim; 3) commits sexual assault in the second degree that is aided by two or more others present at the scene; or 4) engages in sexual intercourse with a mentally incapacitated victim who cannot consent.

Category: Class B felony; class A felony

Penalty: At least 10 years imprisonment with the possibility of reduction

Name: Rape in the first degree

Summary: Intentionally having sexual intercourse with another person along with an aggravating factor, such as non-consent during a felony or certain misdemeanors or displaying a deadly weapon during the act.

Category: Class A felony

Penalty: Up to life imprisonment, depending on aggravating factors

Name: Sexual battery

Summary: Sexual penetration or union by another, not counting medical purposes, in the following situations: 1) an offender 18 years or older commits the offense with a victim between 12 and 18 years old under specified circumstances; 2) an offender commits the offense with a person at least 12 years old under specified circumstances, and the offender had a previous similar violation; 3) the offender and victim are both 18 or older under certain circumstances; or 4) the victim is 12 or older, and the offender is under 18.

Category: Felony in the first degree

Penalty: Up to life imprisonment, depending on the details of the crime

Note: Certain circumstances are listed under paragraph (e) of the Florida statute.

Name: Rape

Summary: Sexual penetration of a female younger than 10 or a female forcibly and against her will.

Category: Felony

Penalty: 25 years to life imprisonment or death

Name: Sexual assault in the first degree

Summary: The offender engages in sexual penetration in certain situations, such as subjecting the victim to sexual penetration by strong compulsion or engaging in sexual penetration with anyone under the age of 14.

Category: Class A felony

Penalty: Up to 20 years imprisonment

Name: Rape

Summary: Sexual penetration in specific circumstances, such as the victim and offender are of certain ages, the victim cannot give legal consent, or the victim is prevented from resisting.

Category: Felony

Penalty: One year to life imprisonment

Name: Rape

Summary: Sexual penetration in specific circumstances, such as the victim and offender are of certain ages, the victim cannot give legal consent, or the victim is prevented from resisting.

Category: Felony

Penalty: One year to life imprisonment

Name: Criminal sexual assault

Summary: Sexual penetration when the offender 1) uses force or the threat of force; 2) knows the victim cannot understand or consent to the act; 3) assaults a minor family member under 18 years old; or 4) is at least 17 and holds an authority position over the victim, and the victim is between 13 and 18 years old.

Category: Class 1 felony, with exceptions

Penalty: Between four and 15 years imprisonment and a fine of between $75 and $25,000, with exemptions

Note: Illinois has eight laws related to sex crimes, but none are titled “Rape.”

Name: Rape

Summary: Intentional sexual intercourse with the victim when: 1) the victim is compelled by force or threat of force, 2) the victim is unaware of the act, or 3) the victim cannot give consent due to mental deficiency or disability.

Category: Level 3 or 1 felony

Penalty: Between three and 40 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000

Name: Rape

Summary: Intentional sexual intercourse with the victim when: 1) the victim is compelled by force or threat of force, 2) the victim is unaware of the act, or 3) the victim cannot give consent due to mental deficiency or disability.

Category: Level 3 or 1 felony

Penalty: Between three and 40 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000

Name: Sexual abuse in the first degree

Summary: While committing sexual abuse, the offender causes a serious injury.

Category: Class A felony

Penalty: Up to life imprisonment

Name: Rape

Summary: 1) Sexual intercourse with a non-consenting victim or a victim incapable of consenting, 2) sexual intercourse with a victim under 14, or 3) sexual intercourse with consent gained through a misrepresentation.

Category: Felony

Penalty: Up to 267 months imprisonment

Name: Rape in the first degree

Summary: Sexual intercourse with a victim who cannot consent due to 1) forcible compulsion, 2) physical helplessness, or 3) being under 12 years old.

Category: Class A or B felony

Penalty: Up to 50 years imprisonment

Name: First-Degree Rape

Summary: Sexual intercourse with a person aged 65 or older without consent or nonconsensual sexual intercourse in any of the following situations: 1) the offender overcomes the victim’s resistance, 2) the offender makes threats of bodily harm, 3) the offender is armed with a deadly weapon, 4) the victim is under age 13, 5) multiple offenders participate in the rape, 6) the person is disabled and cannot resist, or 7) the act is committed while engaged in a burglary.

Category: Title III offense

Penalty: Life imprisonment with hard labor without the chance of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence; capital punishment possible if the victim was under 13 years old

Name: Gross sexual assault

Summary: Sexual acts with another when 1) the victim submits via compulsion, 2) the victim is under 14 and not the offender’s spouse, 3) the victim is under 12 and not the offender’s spouse, or 4) other illegal conduct is involved.

Category: Class A, B, or C crime

Penalty: Up to 30 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $50,000

Name: Rape in the first degree

Summary: A sexual act with a victim by force or threats of force without the victim’s consent and another qualifying factor, such as yielding a dangerous weapon or inflicting serious injury on the victim.

Category: Felony rape

Penalty: Up to life imprisonment

Name: Rape

Summary: Sex against the victim’s will by force or threats.

Category: Felony

Penalty: Up to 20 years, or up to life imprisonment with aggravating factors

Name: Criminal sexual conduct in the first degree

Summary: Sexual penetration with aggravating factors, such as age, force, and mental capacity.

Category: Felony

Penalty: Up to life imprisonment, dependent on aggravating factors

Name: Criminal sexual conduct in the first degree

Summary: Sexual penetration with an adult victim under certain circumstances, such as fear of imminent bodily harm, being armed, or causing personal injury under distinguishing circumstances.

Category: Felony

Penalty: Imprisonment of up to 30 years and a fine of up to $40,000

Note: Victims under 18 years fall under subdivision 1a of this crime.

Name: Sexual battery

Summary: Sexual penetration under certain circumstances, such as non-consent, age, or mental or physical incapacitation.

Category: Felony

Penalty: Up to life imprisonment and fines of up to $10,000, depending on aggravating factors

Note: There are other separate, narrowly focused rape laws, such as Rape; assault with intent to ravish.

Name: Rape in the first degree

Summary: Sexual intercourse 1) without consent or 2) using force.

Category: Felony

Penalty: Up to life imprisonment, depending on aggravating factor

Name: Sexual intercourse without consent

Summary: Nonconsensual sexual intercourse or sexual intercourse with a victim who cannot consent.

Category: Felony

Penalty: Up to $50,000 in fines, up to life imprisonment, or capital punishment; chemical treatment possible for some offenders

Name: Sexual assault; first degree

Summary: Sexual penetration 1) without consent; 2) knowing the victim could not resist or was incapable of understanding the act; or 3) when the offender is at least 19 years old and the victim is between 12 and 16 years old.

Category: Class II felony

Penalty: Up to 50 years imprisonment

Name: Sexual assault

Summary: Sexual assault occurs when 1) the offender subjects or forces the victim to engage in sexual penetration against their will, or the victim is unable to resist or understand the nature of the act; or 2) when the offender subjects a child under 14 years old to sexual penetration.

Category: Category A felony

Penalty: Up to life imprisonment, depending on aggravating factors
Note: There are defenses against sexual assault of a child if the offender is under a certain age.

Name: Aggravated felonious sexual assault

Summary: Sexual penetration under specific circumstances, such as by force, coercion, or drugging.

Category: Felony

Penalty: Up to 20 years or longer, depending on the crime’s circumstances, with the potential for lifetime supervision for repeat offenders

Name: Aggravated sexual assault in the first degree

Summary: Sexual penetration under specific circumstances, such as the victim being under certain ages, the crime being committed during another specified crime, or the offender being armed.

Category: Felony

Penalty: Up to life imprisonment, depending on aggravating factors

Name: Criminal sexual penetration in the first degree

Summary: Sexual penetration on a child under 13 years old or the use of force or coercion that results in great harm to the victim’s body or mind.

Category: first-degree felony

Penalty: Up to life imprisonment and up to $17,500 in fines, depending upon aggravating factors

Name: Rape in the first degree

Summary: Sexual intercourse under specific circumstances, such as by force or with a victim under 18 years old.

Category: Class B felony

Penalty: Up to 25 years imprisonment

Name: First-degree forcible rape

Summary: Engaging in forced vaginal intercourse against the victim’s will and other aggravating factors, such as displaying a weapon.

Category: Class C felony

Penalty: Up to life imprisonment

Name: Gross sexual imposition

Summary: Causing or engaging in a sexual act under specific circumstances, such as by force, by threats of force, or by drugging.

Category: Felony

Penalty: Up to life imprisonment, with certain aggravating factors

Name: Rape in the first degree

Summary: Sexual conduct with a non-spouse or separated spouse under certain aggravating factors, such as drugging, the victim’s age, or lack of consent with any party.

Category: First-degree felony

Penalty: Up to life imprisonment and a fine of up to $20,000, depending upon aggravating factors

Name: Rape in the first degree

Summary: Sexual penetration of a non-spouse under certain circumstances, such as the ages of the offender and victim, the victim’s mental incapacity, or force or threat of force.

Category: Felony

Penalty: Up to life imprisonment or capital punishment

Name: Rape in the first degree

Summary: Sexual intercourse under certain circumstances, such as forcible compulsion, age of the victim, or relationship between the offender and victim.

Category: Class A felony

Penalty: Up to 20 years imprisonment and up to $375,000 in fines; minimum sentence of 25 years for repeat offenders

Name: Rape

Summary: Sexual intercourse under certain circumstances, such as forcible compulsion, the threat of force, or when the victim is unconscious.

Category: first-degree felony

Penalty: Up to life imprisonment and a fine of up to $25,000; certain additional aggravating factors can increase the penalty by up to 10 years and $100,000

Name: Sexual assault in the first degree

Summary: Sexual penetration under specific circumstances, such as the victim being mentally incapacitated, the use of force, or sexual gratification through purported medical examinations.

Category: Felony

Penalty: Up to life imprisonment

Name: Criminal sexual conduct in the first degree

Summary: Sexual battery of the victim with additional aggravating factors such as force, kidnapping, or drugging.

Category: Felony

Penalty: Up to 30 years imprisonment

Name: Aggravated rape

Summary: Sexual penetration accompanied by certain circumstances, such as force, causing bodily injury to the victim, or being aided by another person.

Category: Class A felony

Penalty: Up to life imprisonment and up to $50,000 in fines, and lifetime community supervision

Name: Aggravated sexual assault, first-degree felony

Summary: Intentionally or knowingly engaging in nonconsensual sexual intercourse with aggravating factors, such as the victim’s age or the use of force or threats.

Category: first-degree felony

Penalty: Up to 99 years imprisonment and up to $10,000 in fines with additional penalties for additional aggravating factors

Name: Aggravated sexual assault

Summary: In the course of rape or forced sexual abuse, the offender commits aggravating offenses, such as threats of using a weapon, being aided by another person, or causing serious bodily injury to the victim.

Category: first-degree felony

Penalty: Up to life imprisonment, depending on the aggravating factors

Name: Aggravated sexual assault

Summary: Sexual assault with aggravating factors, such as causing serious bodily injury to the victim or having previous sexual assault convictions.

Category: Felony

Penalty: Up to life imprisonment and up to $50,000 in fines

Name: Rape

Summary: Sexual intercourse against the victim’s will or by use of the victim’s mental incapacity or with a victim under the age of 13.

Category: Felony

Penalty: Up to life imprisonment; aggravating factors can increase mandatory minimum sentencing

Name: Rape in the first degree

Summary: Sexual intercourse by forcible compulsion where the offender or an accessory engages in aggravating behavior, such as kidnapping or threatening with a deadly weapon.

Category: Class A felony

Penalty: Up to life imprisonment and up to a fine of $50,000

Name: Sexual assault in the first degree

Summary: Sexual intercourse or intrusion with certain aggravating factors, such as serious bodily injury, a deadly weapon, or age restrictions.

Category: Felony

Penalty: Up to 35 years imprisonment and up to $10,000 in fines; for certain age-related offenses, up to 100 years imprisonment and up to $25,000 in fines

Name: First-degree sexual assault

Summary: Sexual intercourse or sexual contact with aggravating circumstances, such as non-consent, help from another person, or the victim being age 60 or older.

Category: Class B felony

Penalty: Imprisonment up to 60 years

Name: Sexual assault in the first degree

Summary: Sexual intrusion under specific circumstances, such as submission due to force or threats.

Category: Felony

Penalty: Up to 50 years imprisonment or up to life imprisonment with aggravating factors

If you are not sure where to turn, RAINN can help.

Call 800-656-HOPE (4673) to talk confidentially with a trained professional from RAINN.

They can put you in touch with local resources and organizations that can help in your healing journey.

If you want to speak to a lawyer about your experience, we can help.

What Should I Do if I Have Been Raped or Sexually Assaulted?

Surviving rape is a traumatic experience. The emotional impact of being sexually violated is incomparable.

If you are in immediate danger, call 911 for the police and immediate medical attention.

If you are not in immediate danger, you have the following options available to you. You can contact a local or national advocate who can explain your state’s laws, available resources, and processes.

Find a safe location away from your attacker. Contact someone you trust immediately and go to them or have them come to you. It’s important to feel safe and supported in the aftermath of rape.

Seek medical attention. Many victims’ first instinct is to clean themselves after being raped, but if you can, you should wait to shower and/or use the bathroom until you have received medical attention. Evidence will be crucial should you decide to file a police report and the police pursue charges. Understand that seeking medical attention doesn’t mean you must notify the police of your rape unless mandatory reporting is required, such as in the case of children.

It is critical to note that seeking medical attention does not require you to notify the police. When you seek medical care after a rape, a trained provider can perform a sexual assault forensic exam, also called a rape kit. Again, having this exam performed does not mean that you have to report the rape to the police. If you suspect you were drugged, report it to the hospital staff immediately.

Document your experience. Write down the details of your assault and what you can remember about the perpetrator. It can be helpful to have a friend help you record this information.

Understand your legal options. You can contact a lawyer that specializes in rape and sexual assault cases to discuss the details of your case and learn about your legal options. You can usually set up a free consultation with a lawyer to see if they are a good match for you.

Seek emotional support. Many survivors experience PTSD, depression, anxiety, and other mental health struggles after the assault. You can contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline to talk to an advocate who can connect you with counseling services or a local support group to help you on your healing journey.

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