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Pennsylvania Rape Laws

Overview of Pennsylvania Rape Laws

In Pennsylvania, rape is a crime where the defendant forcibly or under threat of force engages in sexual intercourse with another person. Rape can also occur if the defendant has substantially impaired the victim's ability to control his/her conduct by intoxicating the victim without his/her knowledge or if the victim has a mental disability.

Additional details of Pennsylvania's rape laws can be found in the following table.

Statute Pennsylvania Statutes Title 18 § 3121
Statutory Definition of Felony Rape

A person commits a felony of the first degree when the person engages in sexual intercourse with a complainant:


  1. By forcible compulsion.
  2. By threat of forcible compulsion that would prevent resistance by a person of reasonable resolution.
  3. Who is unconscious or where the person knows that the complainant is unaware that the sexual intercourse is occurring.
  4. Where the person has substantially impaired the complainant's power to appraise or control his or her conduct by administering or employing, without the knowledge of the complainant, drugs, intoxicants or other means for the purpose of preventing resistance.
  5. Who suffers from a mental disability which renders the complainant incapable of consent.


Penalties Up to 40 yrs. in prison (up to life imprisonment for rape of a child with serious bodily injury)

Rape of a Child

If the defendant rapes a child under the age of 13, the charge is called "rape of a child" and is a separate offense from rape. It is also considered a separate offense if the defendant commits a rape of a child and the child is seriously injured. This offense is called "rape of a child with serious bodily injury."

Defenses to Rape Charges

There are a number of possible defenses to the charge of rape in Pennsylvania. Please consult an experienced sex crimes attorney to learn which ones may apply in your situation.

  • Consent;
  • No force or threat of force was used;
  • Insanity;
  • Intoxication of the defendant in limited circumstances;
  • Age.

Penalties and Sentences

Rape is considered a first degree felony in Pennsylvania. A first degree felony carries a sentence of up to twenty years in prison. In addition to this term, if the defendant used any type of intoxicating drug in the commission of this offense, the sentence may be extended for an additional ten years in prison. Also, a fine of up to $100,000 may be imposed as well and mandatory sex offender registration.

Note: State laws surrounding rape and sex assault are constantly changing -- please contact a Pennsylvania sex crimes attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Pennsylvania Rape Laws: Related Resources

Victim Resources

If you or someone you know has been the victim of rape, there are organizations that can help you. Please consider contacting a rape crisis center or other non-profit organization for more information. Most centers provide, at a minimum, basic services to victims/survivors of sexual violence, rape and incest including:

  • Free and confidential crisis counseling 24-hours a day;
  • Prevention education programs to schools, civic organizations and other public groups;
  • Services for the victim's family, friends, partners or spouses;
  • Information and referrals to other services in your area.

Facing Rape Charges? You Will Need Professional Legal Help

If you are the victim of rape, make sure you get the necessary medical and emotional support after going to the police. If you have been charged with rape, you have the right to defend yourself in a court of law. An attorney can help you navigate the criminal justice system and lay out the best possible defenses. Get in touch with a Pennsylvania defense attorney today.

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