Rhode Island Rape and Sexual Assault Laws

In Rhode Island, rape and sexual assault are both criminalized under the state's sexual assault laws. These laws prohibited "sexual penetration" and "sexual contact" under specific circumstances. These acts are defined as follows:

  • Sexual penetration: Sexual intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio, and anal intercourse, or any intrusion by a person's body (or any object) into the genital or anal openings or another person's body, or into the victim's own body upon the offender's instruction.
  • Sexual contact: The intentional touching of the victim's or the offender's intimate parts (clothed or unclothed), if that touching can reasonably be construed as intended to be for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification, or assault.

Code Section

Rhode Island Statutes section 11-37-2: First Degree Sexual Assault

What's Prohibited?

Engaging in sexual penetration with another person under any of the following circumstances:
  • The offender isn't the victim's spouse and knows (or has reason to know) that the victim is mentally incapacitated, mentally disabled, or physically helpless
  • The offender uses force or coercion
  • The offender overcomes the victim through concealment or by the element of surprise, or
  • The offender engages in the medical treatment or examination of the victim for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification, or stimulation

Penalties

Punishable by ten years to life in prison.

Assault

If the offender commits assault with the intent to commit first-degree sexual assault, then the crime is punishable by three to 20 years in prison.

Duty to Report Sexual Assault

Any person, other than the victim, who knows (or has reason to know) that either first-degree sexual assault or attempted first-degree sexual assault is taking place must immediately notify the police. Failing to do so is a misdemeanor offense that is punished by imprisonment for up to one year, and/or a fine of up to $500. However, any person who, in good faith, reports sexual assault according to this law will have immunity from any liability that might otherwise be incurred or imposed.

Code Section

Rhode Island Statutes section 11-37-4: Second Degree Sexual Assault

What's Prohibited?

Engaging in sexual contact with another person under any of the following circumstances:
  • The offender knows (or has reason to know) that the victim is mentally incapacitated, mentally disabled, or physically helpless
  • The offender uses force, the element of surprise, or coercion, or
  • The offender engages in the medical treatment or examination of the victim for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification, or stimulation

Penalties

Punishable by three to 15 years in prison.

Code Section

Rhode Island Statutes section 11-37-6: Third Degree Sexual Assault (Statutory Rape)

What's Prohibited?

An offender who is over the age of 18 engaging in sexual penetration with a person who is over the age of 14 and is under age 16 (which is the age of consent in Rhode Island).

Penalties

Punishable by up to five years in prison.

Child Molestation Sexual Assault

In Rhode Island, there are additional statutes that criminalize the rape and sexual assault of children. An offender is guilty of first-degree child molestation sexual assault if he or she engages in sexual penetration with a child who is less than 14 years old. This offense is punishable by imprisonment for 25 years to life. Additionally, a person who engaging in sexual contact with a child who is less than 14 years old commits second-degree child molestation sexual assault and can be imprisoned for six to 30 years.

Additional Resources

State laws change frequently. For case specific information regarding Rhode Island's rape and sexual assault laws contact a local criminal defense lawyer.

If you are a rape or domestic violence survivor there is help available for you. During an emergency dial 911, and when you're safe contact the Sexual Assault & Trauma Resource Center of RI.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.