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What Elements Do Prosecutors Need to Prove in a Virginia Rape Case?

The following is taken from an interview with Virginia sex crimes lawyer Steve Duckett as he explains what needs to be proven in order for someone to be convicted of rape. To discuss your case, call today and schedule a free consultation.

The elements for rape essentially are that a person has sexual intercourse with a person against their will either by force, threats, or intimidation of the complaining person, or another person for that matter. If the complainant witness is mentally incapacitated, that can be charged with rape. If intercourse is performed on a child who is under the age of 13, even if it’s not against that person’s will, it is considered rape because a person under the age of 13 lacks the legal authority to consent to sex in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Proving the Elements

In a rape case, the prosecutors need to prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt.

Sexual Intercourse

They need to prove, first of all, that sexual intercourse took place. This can be done obviously through the testimony of the complaining witness but there can also be supporting physical evidence from what is commonly called the rape kit. A rape kit is an examination of the victim shortly after the assault was alleged to have taken place. They collect DNA evidence from that person, take notes, and photographs of any injuries that the person sustained so they find forensic evidence associated with it.

But in many other cases, it can simply be the victim’s word against that of the perpetrator. In those cases, it is again very important that the person who is accused of this type of crime not talk to the police about what may or may not have happened because in many of those cases the person who is charged is going to give them their best evidence.

In other words, in many cases where they don’t have forensic evidence, it is simply a he-said, she-said situation. In those cases, if the police have only gotten one side of the story and the person who is accused holds on to their story until they talk to an attorney then they could present that at trial in a way that’s more put together than it would be if they were in the room with the police being interrogated under the lights.  They almost always fare better.

Use of Force, Threats, or Intimidation

In addition, the prosecutors will need to prove that the sexual intercourse occurred through the use of force, threats, or intimidation, depending on the facts of that specific case. In many rape cases, this evidence is collected the same way as described above: the complaining witness testimony, DNA or other forensic evidence, and statements made by the person being charged.

Contact an Attorney Early On

In these cases, it is very important for someone to contact an attorney early on in a case. Rape is a very serious offense that can result in life in prison. By having an experienced attorney, you can present your side of the story in a controlled manner that puts forth the most persuasive arguments in your favor.


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