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Whether you’re married, dating, separated, living together, or divorced, sexual intercourse with another person through the use of force or without their consent is illegal in the state of North Carolina. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had intercourse with them previously – you must have their consent to have intercourse with them each time.

This type of situation often comes into play with marital rape. In North Carolina, it is a crime that can carry with it severe penalties. Don’t assume that a partner or former partner can be coerced or forced into sex because this can land you in some serious legal jeopardy.

It’s vital for everyone to understand sexual assault laws in North Carolina, including marital rape. That way, everyone can stay safe and participate in acts of sexual intercourse that are legal and wanted. Read on to find out what you need to know about sexual assault in our state, including marital rape.

Sexual Assault in North Carolina

In 1993, North Carolina changed its laws to allow those accused of marital rape to be prosecuted. Under these laws, anyone in the state who sexually assaults their spouse is subject to the same penalties as anyone else who commits sexual assault – even a stranger.

One important thing to understand about North Carolina’s laws is that they distinguish between rape and sexual assault. Rape involves vaginal penetration, while sexual assault can include other types of forced penetration, such as anal penetration.

In the state, there are two degrees of rape. They are:

Rape in the First Degree

This occurs when a person forces another to have sex that is not consensual and possesses a deadly weapon, is aided by one or more other people, or inflicts serious injury on the victim. First-degree rape charges also encompass statutory rape, where the victim is under the age of 13.

Rape in the Second Degree

If a victim is forced to have sex without consent or cannot give consent due to physical helplessness, disability, or incapacitation, then it is second-degree rape.

Consent in North Carolina

Sexual Assault in North Carolina

The rape and sexual assault crimes in North Carolina hinge on the idea of consent. There are several ways a person can express consent, and many states have laws that help to define what is legally considered consent and what is not.

In general, if a person engages in sex with someone else by force or with someone who cannot legally give consent due to infirmity, helplessness, or incapacitation, then they are violating the law regarding consent.

If the victim is coerced, threatened, or deceived, then they cannot freely give consent under the law. That means they cannot provide positive cooperation or exercise their free will concerning the act. They must have free and voluntary knowledge of the nature of the act for the consent to be given freely and, most importantly, legally.

Penalties for Rape in North Carolina

If you are convicted of raping your spouse in the first degree in North Carolina, you face serious penalties according to the state’s classification system. First-degree rape is considered a Class B1 felony, which under sentencing guidelines, can send you to prison for anywhere from 144 months to life.

Rape in the second degree is a Class C felony. Under sentencing guidelines, a person can be sentenced to between 44 and 182 months in prison if convicted of the crime.

It’s important to note that under North Carolina law, engaging in a sexual act with someone against their will is a sexual offense. Sexual offenses in the first and second degree carry the same penalties as rape, so being charged with a sexual offense such as sexual assault isn’t a better option than rape – the penalties are identical.

Are There Any Defenses to Marital Rape Charges in North Carolina?

Every person is allowed to defend themselves in court against charges. Your attorney can help you to formulate a proper defense depending on the circumstances of the case against you. In rape and marital rape cases, people typically use a defense strategy that involves one of these ideas:


If you did not rape your spouse, then you can argue this in court and force the prosecution to prove otherwise.

Consent was Given

If you were given consent to have sexual intercourse with your spouse, then that’s a good defense too. However, you must be able to show the consent was given in a way that would lead a reasonable person to believe that consent was given. Importantly, that consent can at no point have been revoked.

Are There Any Defenses to Marital Rape Charges in North Carolina?

As you can see, situations involving accusations of marital rape can be quite complicated. Because of this and the seriousness of the charges, it is always best to work with a knowledgeable criminal lawyer on your defense.

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