If you have been arrested for sexual assault in North Carolina, you are being charged with a serious felony. A conviction can result in a lengthy prison sentence—that in some cases can be for life without any possibility of parole. In addition, you would have a permanent criminal record that can affect your ability to obtain a job, housing, loan, and much more. Because of the harsh penalties you face, you need the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney who can build a strong defense that could result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense.
What Is a First-Degree and Second-Degree Sexual Offense?
In North Carolina, a sexual offense crime is defined as an offense where a person subjects a victim to unwanted and offensive sexual acts and is defined to include cunnilingus (which is oral sex on a woman’s genitals), fellatio (which is oral stimulation of the penis), analingus (which is oral-anal sex), or anal intercourse. The difference between sexual offense charges and rape is that rape specifically involves vaginal penetration while sexual assault does not include vaginal intercourse. However, a sexual offense crime can include penetration by an object into the genitals. Penetration is not required if the sexual act is cunnilingus, fellatio, or analingus, but is required if the sexual act was anal intercourse or penetration by an object.
The crime of sexual offense is classified as first-degree sexual offense and second-degree sexual offense. First-degree sexual offense can be charged when a person engages in a sexual act with either of the following:
- A child under 13 years old and the accused person is 14 years old or older and at least four years older than the victim.
- A person by force and against her will with the use of a dangerous weapon, that inflicts serious personal injury, or is committed with the help of at least one other person.
First-degree sexual offense is a Class B1 felony—the second most serious felony in North Carolina. If convicted, a person can be sentenced to 144 months to life in prison without parole. The exact sentence will be determined by the person’s prior criminal record and other factors.
Second-degree sexual offenses can be charged when an individual performs a sexual act by force and against the will of the victim or with a person who is mentally incapacitated, mentally disabled, or physically helpless. Second-degree sexual offense is Class C felony, and the penalty, if convicted, can include a prison sentence of 44 to 182 months.
Common Rape Charges in North Carolina
As noted above, rape in North Carolina involves vaginal penetration. It is also classified by two separate degrees of rape which are very similar to the definitions of sexual offense crimes:
- First-degree rape. First-degree rape occurs if a person forces or acts against the will of the victim to engage in vaginal intercourse. The rape must include the use or display of a deadly or dangerous weapon, inflict serious bodily harm, or be committed with the assistance of one or more person. Statutory rape is also considered first-degree rape. It can be charged if the victim was younger than 13 years old and the accused person was at least 12 years old and at least four years older than the victim. This is a Class B1 felony. While many factors will determine a person’s sentence if convicted, he could face a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison and life in prison with no chance of parole if the victim was under 12 years old or the person had a prior conviction.
- Second-degree rape. A person can be charged with second-degree rape if he engages in vaginal intercourse with the victim by using force and against the will of the victim or with a victim who is mentally disabled, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless. Second-degree rape is a Class C felony with a sentence of between 58 and 73 months in prison for a first offense and up to 146 months in prison for a subsequent offense.
Contact Our Office for Help Fighting the Charges You Face
Have you been charged with the crime of rape or sexual offense in North Carolina? Even if you believe that you are guilty, you could have a variety of defenses that may result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense with less harsh penalties. However, you cannot hope to achieve this result without the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Call our office or start an online chat to schedule a free consultation to discuss the charges you face and possible defenses we may be able to raise on your behalf.