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North Carolina Sexual Assault Laws

Last updated 1/13/2020

Sexual assault is commonly defined as any offense in which the defendant subjects one or more victims to unwanted and offensive sexual acts, which includes everything from groping to rape.

What Are the Sexual Assault Laws in North Carolina?

North Carolina sexual assault laws and crime classifications are identical to the state's rape laws, with one key difference. North Carolina still defines rape as involving vaginal penetration, while forced anal penetration is charged as "sexual offense." For either charge, a conviction can result in anywhere between 44 months to life in prison.

Different Degrees of Rape

In North Carolina, there are two (2) separate degrees of rape:

First-Degree Rape:
A person forces the victim to have non-consensual sex, and either possesses a deadly weapon, inflicts serious injury upon the victim, or is aided by one or more other persons. Furthermore, statutory rape is also considered a first-degree rape charge and can occur when a victim is younger than 13 years old, and the defendant is at least 12 years old, and at least four (4) years older than the victim.

Second-Degree Rape:
A person forces a victim to have non-consensual sex, and the victim is incapable of giving consent because of a mental disability or incapacitation, or physical helplessness.

North Carolina Sexual Assault Laws: Chart

The basic provisions and classifications of North Carolina's sexual assault laws are listed in the following chart. See FindLaw's Sex Crimes section for additional resources.

Code Section North Carolina General Statutes section 14-27.21, et seq.;  Bill NC S199
Definition of the Crime

A person commits a sexual offense by engaging in a sexual act with another person by force and against the will of the other person; or with another person who lacks capacity, either mentally or physically, and the defendant knows or reasonably should know of that incapacity.

Classifications / Penalties

First-degree sexual offense (victim is under 13 years old; or defendant either uses a dangerous weapon, inflicts serious injury, or is aided and abetted by one or more other people): Class B1 felony; 144 months to life in prison.

Second-degree sexual offense (sexual act committed by force and against the will of the other person; or against someone who lacks mental or physical capacity, such as someone who is mentally defective): Class C felony; 44 to 182 months in prison.

Defenses Consent unless it is revoked by the other person, in a way that a reasonable person would believe consent was revoked.; insanity; actual innocence

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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North Carolina Sexual Assault Laws: Related Resources

Get Legal Help with Your Sexual Assault Case in North Carolina

Being convicted of a sexual assault crime in North Carolina can result in serious consequences such as incarceration and irreparable damage to your reputation. Anytime you're facing such possible outcomes, it's in your best interests to contact a skilled criminal defense attorney who can work diligently on your behalf.

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