Under NRS 200.373, spousal or marital rape is a crime in Nevada and is punished the same as rape of a non-spouse. But the law seems to make marital rape a crime only if threats or actual force is used against the victim spouse.
NRS 200.373 states that “it is no defense to a charge of sexual assault that the perpetrator was, at the time of the assault, married to the victim, if the assault was committed by force or by the threat of force.”
As with the Nevada crime of battery domestic violence (NRS 200.485), many decent and loving husbands and wives are falsely accused of spousal / marital rape in Las Vegas. And not only can a conviction land you a decades-long prison sentence, but you are also required to register as a sex offender for life!
Our experienced Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers have achieved favorable plea bargains and full dismissals in hundreds of sex offense cases. Keep reading to learn more about the Las Vegas crime of marital rape under NRS 200.373 including its possible penalties and how we can defend you.
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys will discuss:
- 1. What is spousal rape in Nevada?
- 2. How can I fight NRS 200.373 charges?
- 3. What are the penalties for spousal rape?
1. What is spousal rape in Nevada?
It is illegal in Nevada to sexually assault your spouse (“sexual assault” is the formal word for rape). Unlike in some other states, a person may be convicted of spousal rape in Nevada whether or not any of the following conditions is true:
- the spouses were in the process of separating or divorcing at the time of the alleged rape,
- the spouses were cohabitating at the time of the alleged rape, or
- significant time has elapsed since the alleged rape and when the victim reports it to the police.
Therefore, Las Vegas spousal rape law is nearly identical to Nevada sexual assault law where the alleged perpetrator and victim are not married. The one main difference concerns the issue of consent:
Consent: Sexual Assault v. Spousal Rape
With regard to unmarried parties, it is still considered rape in Nevada to have sex without the use of force as long as the accused knows (or should know) that the victim is too incapacitated to give their consent to the sex. So having sex with someone who is passed out drunk, or too drugged out to appreciate what is going on, could be rape in Las Vegas.
By contrast, technically a husband or wife can legally have sex with their spouse without their consent as long as no force (or threat thereof) is used to accomplish the sex . . . but arguably this might occur only if the victim was asleep, unconscious, or intoxicated to the point where they were incapable of resisting or knowing what was happening to them. And even then, the prosecutor may still choose to press charges and put the issue before a Nevada jury.1
2. How can I fight NRS 200.373 charges?
It is extremely frightening to be accused of rape in Nevada because the potential consequences are so dire. But remember that Clark County prosecutors and judges are very mindful of the fact that spousal rape is one of the most falsely claimed crimes and that it is extremely difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.
The following are just some defenses that your attorneys may use when fighting your Nevada spousal rape case:
- Marriage. Marriage is a defense to spousal rape in Nevada unless force or threats of force were used. So as long as the prosecution cannot show that you resorted to battery or threats of battery to have sex with your spouse, then the charges should be dismissed.
- No sex. You should not be convicted of spousal rape in Las Vegas if the prosecution cannot prove that a sexual act took place.
- False accusations. Unfortunately it is typical for wives or husbands to accuse their partners of spousal rape because they are angry, jealous, vengeful, or to get a leg up in child custody or divorce proceedings. But as long as the state cannot show that the defendant used force (or threats of force) to have sex with the victim, then charges for sexual assault on a spouse in Nevada should be dropped.2
3. What are the penalties for spousal rape?
Spousal rape in Las Vegas is punished the same way as standard sexual assault where the parties are not married. A violation of Clark County spousal rape law is a category A felony in Nevada, which is the most serious class of crimes.
If the spousal rape resulted in the victim sustaining substantial bodily harm (NRS 0.060), then the sentence may include:
- life in Nevada State prison without the possibility of parole, or
- life with the possibility of parole after 15 years
Conversely, if the spousal rape did not cause the victim substantial bodily harm, then the sentence may include:
- life with the possibility of parole after 10 years3
Furthermore, anyone convicted of rape in Nevada is required to register as a Tier III sex offender in Nevada (NRS 179D.117) for life.4
Note that rape also carries lifetime supervision under NRS 176.0931. But it may be possible to get off lifetime supervision after 10 years.5
If the prosecutor refuses to dismiss your spousal rape case and you do not wish to take your chances at trial, the state may be willing to reduce the charges to battery domestic violence (BDV). Even a felony plea to BDV carries a significantly lower prison range than sexual assault in Nevada, and you will not have to register as a sex offender.
To learn the law regarding sexual assault on a spouse in California, refer to our information page on California spousal rape law (Penal Code 262 PC).
- NRS 200.373 – Sexual assault of spouse by spouse; NRS 200.366.
- See also Honeycutt v. State, 118 Nev. 660, 56 P.3d 362 (2002).
- NRS 200.373; see also Botts v. State, 109 Nev. 567, 854 P.2d 856, 109 (1993).
- NRS 179D.117.
- NRS 176.0931.