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Tennessee Rape and Sexual Assault Laws

Many different forms of non-consensual sexual conduct, including rape and other sexual touching (called "sexual battery"), are sex crimes in Tennessee. Generally, higher penalties are assessed for especially bad actions, such as displaying weapons to rape or raping a young child.

Children can't consent to most sexual conduct in Tennessee. Therefore, even if a child or teen claims to consent to a sexual act, it can still be illegal. This is called "statutory rape." When a girl under 18 is pregnant and her doctor finds out the alleged father is over four years older and not her spouse, then the doctor is encouraged to report the condition to the police or court with the patient or her parents' consent.

Rape and Sexual Assault Defenses

Many possible defenses could apply to a rape or sexual battery case. For example, for sexual activities between two adults, showing that the person did consent and that there was no force could be a defense. In addition, innocence, which could be proven by an alibi showing you couldn't possibly have been the person who did it, is a defense. It's possible a mental condition could make it so a defendant didn't understand the sexual conduct was illegal, an insanity defense.

It's best to discuss what happened with a qualified, local sex crimes lawyer to develop and present a solid defense.

Tennessee Rape and Sexual Assault Laws: Statutes

The main provisions of Tennessee's rape and sexual assault laws are outlined below.

Code Sections

Tennessee Code Title 39: Criminal Offenses, Chapter 13: Offenses Against the Person, Part 5: Sexual Offenses

What is Prohibited?

Many sexual offenses are illegal in Tennessee, including:

  • Rape - Sexual penetration (vaginal, oral, or anal intercourse or intrusion of any body part or object into the genitals of any person involved, emission isn't required) of a victim using force or coercion (threats of violence, kidnapping, etc), without the victim's consent (and knows without consent), defendant knows the victim is mentally or physically incapacitated, or is accomplished by fraud.
    • Aggravated Rape - Sexual penetration of a victim using force, coercion, a weapon, causing physical injury, or while aided by another person and using force or coercion, or knowing the victim is mentally or physically incapacitated.
  • Statutory Rape - Three types all involving sexual penetration of a victim by the defendant
    • Mitigated Statutory Rape - A 15-17 years old victim and a defendant at least 4-5 years older.
    • Statutory Rape - A 13 or 14 years old victim and a defendant 4-10 years older or a 15-17 year old victim and defendant 5-10 years older.
    • Aggravated Statutory Rape - Sexual penetration of a victim 13-17 years old and the defendant is 10 years older than the victim.
    • Statutory Rape by an Authority Figure - Victim is 13-17 years old and defendant is at least 4 years old and the defendant had a position of trust, supervision, or discipline by legal, professional, or occupational status, or had parental or custodial authority over the child and used their status to have sex with the child.
  • Rape of a Child - Sexual penetration of a victim by a defendant or defendant by the victim if the victim is 4-12 years old.
    • Aggravated Rape of a Child - sexual penetration between a defendant and victim 3 years old or younger.
  • Sexual Battery - Sexual contact (intentional touching of any party's intimate parts or clothing covering them, if touching for sexual arousal or gratification) with a victim by a defendant by force, coercion, or without the victim's consent (and knows without consent), defendant knows the victim is mentally or physically incapacitated, or is accomplished by fraud.
    • Aggravated Sexual Battery - Sexual contact accompanied by force or coercion, a weapon, causing physical injury to the victim, being assisted by one or more people (if force coercion, or defendant knows victim is mentally or physically incapacitated), or the victim is under 13 years old.
  • Sexual Battery by an Authority Figure - Sexual contact with a victim who was 13-17 years old or mentally or physically incapacitated and the defendant was in the same position of trust described above for statutory rape by an authority figure, and used his or her power to have sexual contact with the victim.

Penalties

The sentence ranges for the above sex crimes are:

  • Class A Felony - 15-60 years in prison and a fine not more than $50,000 (aggravated rape, rape of a child)
    • Note: Rape of a Child has a minimum period of imprisonment of 25 years and once released, the convicted felon can't petition for release from community supervision after 15 years as other sex offenders can.
  • Class B Felony - 8-30 years in prison and a fine not more than $25,000 (rape, aggravated sexual battery)
  • Class C Felony - 3-15 years in prison and a fine not more than $10,000 (statutory rape or sexual battery by an authority figure)
    • Note: Statutory Rape by an Authority Figure convicted offenders aren't eligible for probation or judicial diversion
  • Class D Felony - 2-12 years in prison and a fine not more than $5,000 (aggravated statutory rape)
  • Class E Felony - 1-6 years in prison and a fine not more than $3,000 (sexual battery, statutory rape)

Sex Offender Registry: Almost all sex offenders will end up on the national sex offender registry which seriously impacts where you can live, where you can work, and what your neighbors, friends, and family think of you when they find you're on the registry. You'll need to check in regularly with the local police for several years to the rest of your life.

Note: State laws change often -- it's important to verify the laws you're researching.

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