What is Third-Degree Rape?
The definition of third-degree rape varies across the United States. In most states, a person is guilty of third-degree rape or sexual assault if they engage in nonconsensual sexual intercourse with someone who can’t consent, such as a physically helpless person, minor, or individual with a mental incapacity or disability.
- Definitions of third-degree rape vary by state, generally involving nonconsensual intercourse with someone incapable of consent due to age, disability, or incapacity
- The statute of limitations are laws that govern how long different types of crimes can be reported either in criminal or civil court
- If you are seeking guidance on your options and rights, contact RAINN.org or Helping Survivors for more assistance
To fully understand the differences in degrees of rape charges, it’s important to look at which behaviors constitute third-degree rape by state. We have put together the following information to help you understand what third degree of rape is and the toptions available for reporting and seeking help.
The legal definition of third-degree rape or rape in the third degree varies by state. However, in most states, a person is guilty of third-degree rape if they:
- Engage in nonconsensual sexual intercourse with someone incapable of consenting, such as:
- An individual whose mental disability or incapacity renders them incapable of consenting
- An individual who is physically helpless
- Are at least 21 years old and have sex with someone who is less than 14 to 17 years old (age varies depending on the state)
- Are employed at a state correctional facility or similar facility, and they have sexual intercourse, or contact with one of the prisoners
- Are employed as a peace officer and engage in sexual intercourse with someone in custody
- Are employed or were recently employed as a teacher and engage in sexual intercourse with a student or former student
In contrast, first-degree rape, or rape in the first degree, generally happens when someone engages in sexual intercourse with someone else by forcible compulsion. For instance, someone commits first-degree rape when they force sex on the other person by:
- Using or threatening to use a deadly weapon
- Kidnapping the victim
- Inflicting serious physical injury to the victim
- Illegally entering into the vehicle or building where the victim is located
Second-degree rape or rape in the second degree is more similar to third-degree rape. Its exact definition varies from state to state, but it generally involves someone who is at least 18 years old having sex with someone under 14 or 15 years old. Sexual intercourse or contact with someone who is physically helpless and anal, vaginal, or oral intercourse without the lawful consent of the victim may also fall under second-degree rape.
Third-Degree Rape Definitions By State
Since different states categorize sex crimes differently, not all states use the designation of third-degree rape. For example, California levels nonconsensual intercourse with a minor as “unlawful sexual intercourse.” Furthermore, what may be considered third-degree rape in one state, may be considered sexual battery, assault, or even second-degree rape in another.
Here’s a breakdown of how third-degree rape is defined in states that designate specific criminal actions as third-degree rape:
|Definition of Third Degree Rape
New York third-degree rape: According to the New York Penal Law § 130.25, third-degree rape exists when someone has sexual intercourse with someone who:
Louisiana third-degree rape: Under Louisiana Revised Statutes 14:43, someone commits third-degree rape when they engage in oral, anal, or vaginal sexual intercourse without consent in one or more of the following circumstances:
West Virginia recognizes sexual abuse in the third degree instead of third-degree rape. According to §61-8B-9 of the West Virginia Code, sexual abuse in the third degree happens when:
Kentucky third-degree rape: According to Kentucky Revised Statutes 510.060, a person is guilty of rape in the third degree if they are:
Alaska recognizes sexual assault in the third degree instead of third-degree rape. According to Section 11.41.425 of the Alaska Statutes, someone is guilty of sexual assault in the third degree if they engage in:
Delaware third-degree rape: Under Delaware Code Title 11, a person is guilty of rape in the third degree when they intentionally engage in:
Rape in the third degree is a Class B felony and can result in a prison term of two to 25 years.
Iowa doesn’t have a charge called third-degree rape. Instead, it recognizes sexual abuse in the third degree. Under Chapter 709.4 of the Iowa Code, a person commits sexual abuse in the third degree if someone performs a sex act under any of the following circumstances:
Maryland doesn’t have a charge designated as third-degree rape. Instead, under Chapter 3-307 of the Maryland Criminal Code, “A person who violates this section is guilty of the felony of sexual offense in the third degree and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 10 years.”
Elements of sexual offense in the third degree include:
Michigan doesn’t have a charge called third-degree rape. Instead, Under the Michigan Penal Code Section 750.520d, a person is guilty of criminal sexual conduct in the third degree if they engage in sexual penetration with someone and if any of the following circumstances exist:
Minnesota doesn’t have a charge called third-degree rape, but it does have a charge called criminal sexual conduct in the third degree. According to Section 609.344 of the Minnesota Statutes, criminal sexual conduct in the third degree happens when an adult engages in sexual penetration with another adult and the perpetrator:
|Oregon third-degree rape: Under Oregon Revised Statutes 163.355, a person commits rape in the third degree if they have sexual intercourse with someone under 16 years old. Rape in the third degree is a Class C felony, which means wrongdoers may receive sentences of up to five years of prison and fines up to $125,000.
Rhode Island does not have a charge called third-degree rape. Instead, Under Rhode Island General Laws § 11-37-6, a person is guilty of third-degree sexual assault if they are over 18 years old and engaged in:
Washington third-degree rape: Under Section 9A.44.060, a person is guilty of rape in the third degree when, under circumstances that don’t constitute rape in the first and second degrees, the person engages in sexual intercourse with the victim and:
Wyoming does not have a charge called third-degree rape. Under Wyoming Statutes § 6-2-316, sexual abuse in the third degree applies specifically to sexual abuse of minors. A person commits sexual abuse of a minor in the third degree if they are:
Wyoming’s sexual assault in the third degree, which applies to crimes against adults, states that “an actor commits sexual assault in the third degree if, under circumstances not constituting sexual assault in the first or second degree:
(i) and (ii) Repealed by Laws 2007, ch. 159 § 3.
(iii) The actor subjects a victim to sexual contact under any of the circumstances of W.S. 6-2-302(a)(i) through (iv) or 6-2-303(a)(i) through (vii) and (ix) without inflicting sexual intrusion on the victim and without causing serious bodily injury to the victim.”
Additionally, the law states that “third-degree sexual assault cannot be a lesser included offense to first-degree sexual assault because its elements are not contained within the set of elements for first-degree sexual assault.”
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.
What To Do If You Believe You Have Experienced Third-Degree Rape
If you have been the victim of third-degree rape, you need to seek medical attention immediately. Medical professionals will evaluate your physical injuries, if any, and collect physical evidence of the incident. To help nurses and other medical professionals get as much evidence as possible, try to avoid going to the bathroom or washing your body, face, and clothes until all the evidence has been collected.
Report the perpetrator(s) by filing a police report as soon as possible. While you don’t have to sue the person or people who assaulted you, a police report will strengthen your case if and when you decide to take legal action.
Once you’ve filed a police report, you may want to seek emotional support and help from a counselor, therapist, or support group. When and if you’re ready to file a case against the perpetrator(s), you can hire a personal injury lawyer specializing in sexual abuse cases.