What Is Second-Degree Rape?

Each state defines rape according to its own laws. One common practice is to categorize the crime of rape by degree, depending on the severity of the offense. Understanding how your state and others define specific sexual offenses can help you better understand the crime of rape and the laws associated with it.

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If you have been raped, you may be confused about how different states classify the crime. You may be perplexed about whether the crime committed against you qualifies as second-degree rape by law. Digging through statutory laws can be frustrating and confusing.

State laws define second-degree rape differently. In general, second-degree rape is considered a less severe charge than first-degree rape but a more severe charge than third-degree rape.

Legal Definition of Second-Degree Rape

The legal definition of second-degree rape in some states classifies it as a less severe crime than first-degree rape. In other states, the crime of “second-degree rape” may not exist. Some states use the term “sexual assault” to denote acts that other states classify as second-degree rape, whereas others include it with first-degree and third-degree rape under one law.

The Justice Department updated the federal legal definition of rape in 2012 to be more gender-inclusive and recognize that consent is not implied by default. Previously, forcible rape referred to “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will,” which restricted it to “forcible male penile penetration of a female vagina.”

woman in distress with hand over mouth

Second-Degree vs. Third-Degree Rape

In addition to the fact that rape laws and definitions of third- and second-degree rape vary from state to state, some states don’t use degrees to define the severity of laws related to sexual offenses.

Take, for example, the comparison of third- and second-degree rape laws in Kentucky and Louisiana.

Rape Laws
Kentucky
Louisiana

Second-degree rape

Sexual intercourse with minors under 14

Forceful sexual intercourse without consent

Sexual intercourse with a victim incapable of resisting or understanding due to intoxication caused by a substance administered by the offender without the victim’s knowledge

Third-degree rape

Sexual intercourse with minors under 17

Sexual intercourse with minors under 18 if the offender is in an authority position or providing a foster home

Sexual intercourse without consent due to:

  • An intoxicant preventing the victim from consenting, and the offender knew or should have known about the intoxication
  • The victim suffering temporary or permanent unsoundness of mind and being incapable of consent
  • The female victim believing the offender was someone else due to the offender’s concealment or pretense
Rape Laws

Second-degree rape

Kentucky

Sexual intercourse with minors under 14

Louisiana

Forceful sexual intercourse without consent

Sexual intercourse with a victim incapable of resisting or understanding due to intoxication caused by a substance administered by the offender without the victim’s knowledge

Rape Laws

Third-degree rape

Kentucky

Sexual intercourse with minors under 17

Sexual intercourse with minors under 18 if the offender is in an authority position or providing a foster home

Louisiana

Sexual intercourse without consent due to:

  • An intoxicant preventing the victim from consenting, and the offender knew or should have known about the intoxication
  • The victim suffering temporary or permanent unsoundness of mind and being incapable of consent
  • The female victim believing the offender was someone else due to the offender’s concealment or pretense

Although the laws in Kentucky and Louisiana share the same terminology, the content of the laws is vastly different. Kansas, a state that doesn’t designate rape offenses by degree, has one category of rape and four categories of statutory rape:

  • Rape
  • Indecent Liberties with a Child
  • Aggravated Indecent Liberties with a Child
  • Criminal Sodomy
  • Aggravated Criminal Sodomy

On the other hand, Maine has no laws with “rape” in the title, just one law titled “Gross sexual assault.”

Penalties for Second-Degree Rape in the United States

The penalties for second-degree rape in the United States are as varied as their definitions.

Strictly speaking, states that designate the crime “second-degree rape” or “rape in the second degree” tend to carry penalties ranging from two to 28 years of imprisonment.

Comparison of Legal Definitions of Second-Degree Rape by State

The following overview allows you to compare the various laws for acts equivalent to second-degree rape in several American states. It lists the offense, a link to its statute, a summary of the offense, its category, and its associated penalty.

You can find the full legal definition of rape and sexual assault in your state by entering your state into RAINN’s State Law Report Generator.

Name of Crime/Charge: Rape second degree (victim 12-16)

Summary: Sexual intercourse with a victim when the offender is at least 16 and at least two years older than a victim who is at least 12 years old.

Category: Class B felony.

Penalty: Imprisonment for between two and 20 years and a fine of up to $30,000.

Name of Crime/Charge: Sexual assault in the second degree

Summary: 1) Nonconsensual sexual contact, 2) sexual contact with someone who is mentally incapable and in the offender’s care by a legal authority or in a state-licensed program or facility, 3) sexual penetration with a victim who is either mentally incapable, incapacitated, or unaware a sex act is being committed, or 4) sexual contact with someone unaware of the sex act and another aggravating factor.

Category: Class B felony.

Penalty: Up to 99 years imprisonment, according to various ranges, and a fine of up to $100,000.

Name of Crime/Charge: Sexual assault

Summary: Arizona does not have first-, second-, and third-degree rape. It has a sexual assault law with a range of penalties. Nonconsensual sexual intercourse.

Category: Class 2 felony.

Penalty: Between 5.25 and 28 years imprisonment. The offender may receive life imprisonment if they inflicted serious physical injury or the victim was under 12 years old.

Name of Crime/Charge: Rape

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

Category: Class Y felony.

Penalty: Between 10 and 40 years imprisonment; life imprisonment for the forcible rape of a minor by an adult.

Note: Arkansas has one rape law and four sexual assault laws.

Name of Crime/Charge: Rape

Summary: Sexual intercourse under specific circumstances, such as the victim being unable to give consent due to a known disability or the act occurring by force, duress, or fear.
Additionally, 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 of Crime/Charge: Sexual assault in the second degree

Summary: Sexual intercourse in specific situations, such as when the victim is between 13 and 16 and the offender is more than three years older, or the victim is impaired to the extent they cannot consent.

Category: Class C felony; Class B felony.

Penalty: One to 20 years imprisonment, depending on aggravating factors.

Name of Crime/Charge: Rape in the second degree

Summary: Sexual intercourse without the victim’s consent or sexual intercourse and an additional aggravating factor, such as penetration occurring without consent during, following, or to prevent reporting of a crime and the offender causing serious physical injury.

Category: Class B felony.

Penalty: Between 10 and 25 years imprisonment served at Level V.

Name of Crime/Charge: Sexual battery 

Summary: Sexual penetration or union by another, not counting for medical purposes, without consent and in certain situations, such as the offender being less than 18, the victim being 12 or older, and the offender not using violence or physical force likely to cause serious personal injury. 

Category: Felony in the second degree.

Penalty: Up to 15 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000.

Name of Crime/Charge: Sexual assault

Summary: Sexual assault occurs in the following situations: 1) the offender has authority over the victim and commits sexual assault, 2) the offender is an actual or purported psychotherapist, and the victim is their subject, or 3) the offender engages in sexual contact with a victim receiving services from the offender or their facility.

Category: Felony.

Penalty: Between one and 25 years imprisonment or a fine of up to $100,000.

Note: Consent is not a defense. Enhanced policies exist for victims under 16. Georgia consolidates the crime of rape into a single offense.

Name of Crime/Charge: Sexual assault in the second degree

Summary: The offender knowingly subjects a victim to sexual penetration in specific situations, such as compulsion or a mentally incapacitated or physically helpless victim.

Category: Class B felony.

Penalty: Up to 10 years imprisonment.

Name of Crime/Charge: Rape

Summary: Sexual penetration in specific circumstances, such as the victim and offender being of certain ages or the victim being unable to give legal consent.

Category: Felony.

Penalty: One year to life imprisonment.

Name of Crime/Charge: Criminal sexual assault

Summary: Sexual penetration when the offender 1) uses force or a threat of force, 2) knows the victim cannot consent or understand the act, 3) assaults a minor family member under 18, or 4) is at least 17 and holds authority 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 exceptions.

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

Name of Crime/Charge: Rape

Summary: Intentional sexual intercourse with a victim during specific situations, such as an offender compelling a victim by force or threat of force.

Category: Level 1 or 3 felony.

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

Name of Crime/Charge: Sexual abuse in the second degree

Summary: The offender commits sexual abuse in the following situations: 1) the offender displays a weapon or threatening manner or threatens serious force, 2) the victim is a child, or 3) one or more persons assist the offender, and the offender commits the sex act against the victim’s will.

Category: Class B felony.

Penalty: Up to 25 years imprisonment.

Name of Crime/Charge: Rape

Summary: 1) Sexual intercourse with a nonconsenting 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.

Note: There is one consolidated rape law in Kansas and several other sex crimes.

Name of Crime/Charge: Rape in the second degree

Summary: Rape occurs when an adult 1) has sexual intercourse with a victim under 14 or 2) has sexual intercourse with a victim incapable of consent due to mental incapacitation or an intellectual disability.

Category: Class C felony.

Penalty: Five to 10 years imprisonment.

Name of Crime/Charge: Second Degree Rape

Summary: Nonconsensual intercourse due to either 1) force or threats of violence or 2) intoxication by drugs or alcohol administered by the offender without the victim’s knowledge.

Category: Title III offense.

Penalty: Imprisonment for between five and 40 years with hard labor and no benefit of parole, suspension, or probation for at least two years.

Name of Crime/Charge: Gross sexual assault

Summary: Sexual acts with another when 1) the offender compels the victim to submit, 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 actions are involved.

Category: Class A, B, or C crime.

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

Note: Maine has no laws titled Rape, but several laws regarding sexual misconduct.

Name of Crime/Charge: Rape in the second degree

Summary: Sexual acts with a victim 1) by force or threats and without consent, 2) knowing the victim is mentally incapacitated or physically helpless, or 3) when the victim is under 14, and the offender is four or more years older than the victim.

Category: Felony rape.

Penalty: Up to 20 years imprisonment.

Name of Crime/Charge: 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 of Crime/Charge: Criminal sexual conduct in the second degree

Summary: Sexual contact with certain aggravating factors, such as age, weapons, or blood relation.

Category: Felony.

Penalty: Up to 15 years imprisonment and up to lifetime electronic monitoring for certain aggravating factors.

Name of Crime/Charge: Criminal sexual conduct in the second degree

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

Category: Felony.

Penalty: Up to 25 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $35,000.

Name of Crime/Charge: Sexual battery

Summary: Sexual penetration under certain circumstances, such as nonconsent, 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 of Crime/Charge: Rape in the second degree

Summary: Sexual intercourse without consent.

Category: Class D felony.

Penalty: Up to seven years imprisonment and fines up to $10,000.

Name of Crime/Charge: Sexual intercourse without consent

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

Category: Felony.

Penalty: Depending on aggravating factors, the offender may receive maximum penalties of up to $50,000 in fines, up to life imprisonment, or capital punishment. Some offenders may also be subject to chemical treatment.

Name of Crime/Charge: Sexual assault in the second or third degree

Summary: Sexual contact 1) without consent or 2) knowing the victim was incapable of resisting or understanding the nature of the sexual conduct.

Category: Class IIA felony.

Penalty: Up to 20 years imprisonment.

Name of Crime/Charge: Sexual assault

Summary: 1) The offender subjects or forces the victim to engage in sexual penetration against their will, or the victim cannot resist or understand the nature of the act, or 2) 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.

Name of Crime/Charge: Felonious sexual assault

Summary: Sexual contact with aggravating factors, such as the victim’s age, causing serious injury in addition to other factors, or using authority to coerce the victim.

Category: Class B felony.

Penalty: Imprisonment for up to seven years.

Name of Crime/Charge: Sexual assault in the second degree

Summary: Sexual contact or penetration under specific circumstances, such as the victim being under 18 or adult teacher-student relationships.

Category: Felony.

Penalty: Up to 10 years imprisonment.

Name of Crime/Charge: Criminal sexual penetration in the second degree

Summary: Sexual penetration in certain situations, such as by force, by coercion, or in the commission of another felony.

Category: Second-degree felony.

Penalty: A minimum of three years imprisonment.

Name of Crime/Charge: Rape in the second degree

Summary: Sexual intercourse with a victim under 15 years old or non-consensual intercourse due to mental disability or incapacitation.

Category: Class D felony.

Penalty: Up to seven years imprisonment.

Name of Crime/Charge: Second-degree forcible rape

Summary: Vaginal intercourse either by force and against the victim’s will or knowingly with a mentally incapacitated or physically helpless victim.

Category: Class C felony.

Penalty: Up to 182 months imprisonment.

Name of Crime/Charge: Sexual imposition

Summary: A sexual act or sexual contact where the offender compels the victim to submit or as part of a street gang initiation activity.

Category: Felony.

Penalty: Up to 10 years imprisonment and up to a $20,000 fine.

Name of Crime/Charge: Sexual battery

Summary: Sexual conduct under certain conditions, such as coercion, the victim being unaware of the act, or the victim being a minor.

Category: Third-degree battery, unless the victim is under 13 years old, which is second-degree battery.

Penalty: Third-degree battery includes up to 60 months imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000. Second-degree battery includes up to eight years imprisonment and a fine of up to $15,000.

Name of Crime/Charge: Rape in the second degree

Summary: Oklahoma defines rape in the second degree to include all rape that it does not include in rape in the first degree. Rape is sexual intercourse with a nonspouse under certain circumstances, such as mental incapacitation, unconsciousness, or threats of force. Rape is also forced sexual intercourse between spouses.

Category: Felony.

Penalty: Up to 15 years imprisonment.

Name of Crime/Charge: Rape in the second degree

Summary: Sexual intercourse with a victim under 14.

Category: Class B felony.

Penalty: Up to 10 years imprisonment and up to $250,000 in fines.

Name of Crime/Charge: Sexual assault

Summary: Nonconsensual sexual intercourse without the aggravating factors provided in the first-degree rape statute.

Category: Second-degree felony.

Penalty: Up to 10 years imprisonment.

Name of Crime/Charge: Sexual assault in the first degree

Summary: Sexual contact under specific circumstances, such as the offender knowing the victim is mentally incapacitated or physically helpless, use of force or surprise, or sexual gratification through purported medical examinations.

Category: Felony.

Penalty: Up to 15 years imprisonment.

Name of Crime/Charge: Criminal sexual conduct in the second degree

Summary: The offender uses aggravated coercion to sexually batter the victim.

Category: Felony.

Penalty: Up to 20 years imprisonment.

Name of Crime/Charge: Rape

Summary: Sexual penetration accompanied by certain circumstances, such as force, knowing the victim did not consent, or the offender accomplishing the act by fraud.

Category: Class B felony.

Penalty: Up to 30 years imprisonment and up to $25,000 in fines and community supervision for life.

Name of Crime/Charge: Sexual assault, second degree felony

Summary: Intentionally or knowingly engaging in nonconsensual sexual intercourse with a victim or engaging in specified sexual conduct with a child.

Category: Second-degree felony.

Penalty: Up to 20 years imprisonment and fines of up to $10,000.

Name of Crime/Charge: Rape 

Summary: Nonconsensual sexual intercourse.

Category: First-degree felony.

Penalty: Up to life imprisonment if aggravating factors exist or life without parole if the offender was previously convicted of certain sexual offenses.

Name of Crime/Charge: Sexual assault

Summary: Sexual acts in certain situations, such as nonconsent, coercion, or drugging of the victim.

Category: Felony.

Penalty: Up to life imprisonment and up to $25,000 in fines, depending on criminal circumstances.

Name of Crime/Charge: 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 of Crime/Charge: Rape in the second degree

Summary: Circumstances that are less than rape in the first degree but include aggravating factors, such as forcible compulsion or the victim being physically helpless.

Category: Class A felony.

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

Name of Crime/Charge: Sexual assault in the second degree

Summary: Sexual intercourse or sexual intrusion without consent or with a physically helpless victim.

Category: Felony.

Penalty: Up to 25 years imprisonment and up to $10,000 in fines.

Name of Crime/Charge: Second degree sexual assault

Summary: Sexual intercourse or sexual contact with aggravating circumstances, such as the use of force or causing physical or mental harm against a nonconsensual victim. 

Category: Class C felony.

Penalty: Up to 40 years imprisonment.

Name of Crime/Charge: Sexual assault in the second degree

Summary: Sexual intrusion under certain circumstances that fail to qualify as sexual assault in the first degree, such as threatening future retaliation to incite submission.

Category: Felony.

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

What Should I Do if I Think I Was Raped?

First, if you think you may have been raped, you were probably raped. Rape is a traumatic event that too many Americans experience. In the U.S., an adult experiences sexual assault every 73 seconds. Every nine minutes, a child suffers from sexual assault. Don’t worry whether officials will classify your rape as a second-degree rape or a rape in the third degree. Rape is rape.

Here’s what you should do if someone raped you.

If you are currently in danger, call 911.

If you are no longer in danger:

  • Get to a safe location, away from your attacker. Call someone you can trust and go to them or have them meet you. Getting to safety and feeling secure and supported is important after experiencing rape.
  • Get medical attention. You may feel dirty and want a shower, but don’t bathe. Don’t even brush your teeth. If you can, try not to use the bathroom before getting medical attention. This can help you preserve evidence. Evidence will be crucial should you decide to file a police report. Understand that seeking medical attention doesn’t mean you must notify the police of your rape. It’s important for your health that you are checked out, especially if you suspect sexually transmitted infections. Try to get a rape kit, also called a sexual assault forensic exam. If you think you might have been drugged, let the medical staff know immediately, so they can screen your blood.
  • Record your experience. Either write down what happened to you or ask a friend to help you record your account of the rape.
  • Contact a rape attorney. Some attorneys specialize in sexual assault and rape cases. An empathetic rape attorney can help you fight for your rights and help ensure your offender receives justice. Set up a consultation with an attorney in your area to see if they are right for you.