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Virginia Court Issues Important Decision Regarding Marital Rape

On Behalf of | Jul 30, 2021 | Sex Crimes

In a recent opinion, a Virginia appellate court upheld a trial court’s decision to deny the defendant’s motion to strike and reconsider despite the defendant claiming that additional elements are required to prove marital rape. The decision provides valuable insight into marital rape law in Virginia.

According to the court’s opinion, the case involved a married couple who had a rocky relationship but shared a bed together. The wife alleged that while she was sleeping one night, she woke up to find her husband (the defendant) on top of her and that, despite her protests, he engaged in non-consensual intercourse with her. The next day after work, the wife reported the rape incident to the police and was examined at a hospital where the examiner took photos of the bruises on her leg. The defendant was questioned by police, and at first, denied having intercourse with her within the past month. However, the defendant’s DNA evidence was found. Additionally, the defendant had a scratch on his shoulder. The wife also had sent the defendant a text the day after the incident asking why he did that to her.

At trial, the defendant claimed that his wife initiated the sexual intercourse. Additionally, the defendant apologized to his wife through text for whatever it was that he did, testifying in court that he knew he did something to upset her. Despite this, the defendant argued that the evidence was not sufficient enough to prove rape. The trial court found the defendant guilty of rape based on the wife’s credible testimony. The defendant filed a motion to reconsider, arguing that this court had to follow the cases previously decided by the court, cases which had determined that there were additional elements required before one could be convicted of rape when the victim is a spouse.

Under Virginia law, a person is guilty of rape if they have sexual intercourse with a person by force, threat, or intimidation, regardless of whether or not the victim is a spouse. In a previously decided case in the Virginia supreme court, the court followed English common law principles in deciding that marriage included a partner’s implied consent to sexual intercourse. In another case, the court decided that the wife must demonstrate an intent to terminate the marriage in order for the prosecution to prove that the wife revoked her implied consent to marital intercourse.

In this case, the court’s decision came down to whether or not the Virginia legislature intended to change the common law rule requiring a wife to show her intent to end the marriage before a husband can be convicted of rape. The court explained that the legislature amended the statute to clarify that a person is guilty of rape if they forcible have sex with another, “whether or not his or her spouse.” The court explained that as a result of the amended language added to the law by the legislature, the common law rule was repealed. Thus, the trial court was correct to deny the defendant’s motion to strike and reconsider because there were no additional elements required for the defendant to be found guilty of raping his wife. Additionally, the court did not find the defendant’s testimony to be credible because he initially claimed that he had not had sexual intercourse with his wife in over a month, although DNA evidence showed differently.

Have You Been Charged with a Criminal Offense in Virginia?

If you or someone you know has been charged with a Virginia sex crime or another serious criminal offense, contact the committed Virginia criminal defense lawyers at Robinson Law, PLLC. Our team of dedicated defense lawyers has extensive experience handling various criminal matters across the state, including Virginia sex crimes, domestic violence allegations, drug offenses, and more. To learn more and to get a free consultation, give us a call at 703-542-3616 today.