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The provisions of Louisiana rape laws

Evidence showing a crime was committed doesn't prove a defendant's guilt. The state must tie the defendant with the alleged crime while satisfying every provision of the law. Criminal defense attorneys challenge prosecutors' claims to obtain a reduction or withdrawal of charges.

A sexual assault charge, in any form, is an extremely serious allegation. All Louisiana rape crimes have common elements, but the severity of a rape charge can mean the difference between a handful of years in prison and a death sentence.

Rape is a form of nonconsensual sexual assault. A victim's minor status or incapacity can negate consent. A defendant may be accused of rape for intentional touching, including any penetration during vaginal, anal or oral intercourse.

Simple rape, punishable by up to 25 years in prison, occurs when an offender takes advantage of a victim's physical or mental state. Incapacitation may refer to a temporary or permanent "unsoundness of mind," the victim's intoxication or induced mistaken identity – the victim was fooled into thinking the offender was a spouse. The defendant must have known about or should have been aware of the victim's state.

A defendant charged with forcible rape is accused of using a dangerous substance to incapacitate an unwitting victim or applying violent threats or force to have sexual intercourse. The sentence for forcible rape is a five to 40-year prison term.

Aggravated rape charges involve multiple attackers, victims under 13 or victims over 64. The charge applies when victims cannot resist due to infirmity or after using the "utmost" resistance. Aggravated rape, punishable by life imprisonment or the death penalty, also applies when an attacker is armed or threatens serious bodily harm with the "apparent power of execution."

Many rape cases boil down to one person's word against another. In the worst case scenario, plea bargaining may be an option when evidence against a defendant is incontrovertible.

Source: Tulane University, Division of Student Affairs, "Sexual Assault," accessed April. 06, 2015

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