Can someone explain the difference between rape and aggravated rape to me?

In a story I’m working on, the protagonist is a woman whose husband told her (before their marriage) that, prior to their acquaintance, he had committed the crime of rape but has reformed. As the story opens, about four years into their relationship, they encounter a woman who is so discombobulated by the sight of the husband as to go into an immediate panic; this woman was one of his victims, and when the protagonist, later, learns the specifics of the assault, she is gravely shaken, though she honestly believes her husband has reformed.

For purposes of this story, I want the assault to question to have taken place long enough ago so that the husband cannot possibly face prosecution for his crime. As I understand it, in Tennessee, the statute of limitations for rape is eight years, while for aggravated rape is fifteen years. But I’m not clear on the difference between the two crimes. Is this a common-law thing or a legislative thing? Can anybody point me to a good resource?


This page describes 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree sexual assault.

I do not know if these terms vary by state or they can be used anywhere.

From what I have found thus far, Tennessee uses the phrasing aggravated rape and rape, so I should think the specifics of the offenses also differ. It matters for the story because I definitely want the rape to have taken place when the victim was an adult, and I also want the victim and the protagonist to be about the same age; thus the timing of the backstory is important.

Also I’m anal. – Title 39, Chapter 13, Part 5, 502:

So you’ve got 3 ways to get from rape to aggravated rape.

I think that is what makes it aggravated rape.

I’m a little pressed for time right now. If you could get all bombastic and threaten yourself with some horrible comic-booky revenge involving, oh, trained-man-eating ferrets devouring your genitals, that’d be great. :cool:

This was a very helpful link, by the way, thanks.

Does anybody know whether the commission of another offense–namely false imprisonment–could change the category of the crime? From what I’ve been reading it seems not.

ETA: Also, as I’m reading it, the number of times the husband raped the victim in this scenario would not affect the statute of limitations issue, correct? That is, if he held her captive for several days and raped her repeatedly, he would have surely have been liable for multiple counts of rape IF he had been found before the statute of limitations expired, but the heinousness of the repeated rapes does not affect the SoL. Yes?

Also, could an ethical prosecutor charge the husband with rape even though he knows the charge will be kicked because of the expiration?

It’s a legislative thing. The common law crime is simply “rape.” If I’m reading you right, the victim here was the perpetrator’s wife at the time, which under the common law wouldn’t have been a crime; forcing sex on one’s wife wasn’t rape. Strange but true. I can’t tell you about Tennsessee, but by way of example, in Texas the chief difference between sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault is the presence of certain aggravating factors, such as threatening death, serious bodily injury, or kidnapping; causing serious bodily injury, using or exhibiting a deadly weapon, etc.

I’m not sure I follow you on this part. Did the husband flee the jurisdiction? That generally tolls the statute of limitations. As to the second part, the statute just states that charges must be brought within a certain period, so if charges are filed, the statute of limitations is a moot point.

Depends what you mean by category of crime. If the offense you’re talking about is the sexual assault, and it already constituted aggravated rape, the false imprisonment doesn’t change the rape offense, no. It might, however, work the other way – the false imprisonment could be bumped up to an aggravated kidnapping based on the fact that the imprisonment was committed to facilitate the felony of rape. That’s 39-13-304 from the above. But to be clear, the aggravated rape is chargeable as an aggravated rape, full stop.

No, the number of times the offense was committed doesn’t affect the statutory period.

The question about the prosecutor exactly as presented is an iffy one – could an ethical prosecutor who KNOWS the SOL has run still charge the offense… I don’t know about that; arguably in a perfectly ethical world she probably shouldn’t if she really knows the charges shouldn’t lead to a conviction, and she is wasting the court’s time by proceeding anyway.

In practice, though, it’s the defendant who has the burden of raising the SOL as a defense, so if the story requires the charges to be filed, go for it. The defendant’s lawyer would just move to get the charges kicked, citing the appropriate SOL. Maybe the DA has some kind of theory why the SOL hasn’t run (and if you feel like being anal, be careful about whether there are any circumstances that might make that so, as pravnik mentions, e.g. fleeing the jurisdiction, was the victim a minor, and so on). Maybe the DA is just a bonehead or had the numbers wrong. It happens.

I am not, nor have I ever been, a Tennessee lawyer (or even a journalist), and this is a literary exercise, etc.

For comparative purposes, here’s the rape statute from the same link:
39-13-503. Rape. —

(a) Rape is unlawful sexual penetration of a victim by the defendant or of the defendant by a victim accompanied by any of the following circumstances:

 (1)  Force or coercion is used to accomplish the act;

 (2)  The sexual penetration is accomplished without the consent of the victim and the defendant knows or has reason to know at the time of the penetration that the victim did not consent;

 (3)  The defendant knows or has reason to know that the victim is mentally defective, mentally incapacitated or physically helpless; or

 (4)  The sexual penetration is accomplished by fraud.

(b) Rape is a Class B felony.*

Also, Skald, False Imprisonment is a misdemeanor in TN. I think your guy may qualify for:

*39-13-305. Especially aggravated kidnapping. —

(a) Especially aggravated kidnapping is false imprisonment, as defined in § 39-13-302:

	(1)  Accomplished with a deadly weapon or by display of any article used or fashioned to lead the victim to reasonably believe it to be a deadly weapon;

 (2)  Where the victim was under the age of thirteen (13) at the time of the removal or confinement;

 (3)  Committed to hold the victim for ransom or reward, or as a shield or hostage; or

 (4)  Where the victim suffers serious bodily injury.

(b) (1) Especially aggravated kidnapping is a Class A felony.

 (2)  If the offender voluntarily releases the victim alive or voluntarily provides information leading to the victim's safe release, such actions shall be considered by the court as a mitigating factor at the time of sentencing.

[Acts 1990, ch. 982, § 1.]*

The difference between a Class A Felony and a Class B Felony is likely the sentencing range, but might also affect the statute of limitations. I’m poking around to see what I can find for that…

And typical disclaimers–I am not licensed in TN, not your lawyer, assume I’m insane, etc.

40-2-101 is the SOLs for felonies, Oakminster, long as we’re both rooting around.

Yeah, this. I was reading (or misreading) the hypo as the DA bringing charges within the SOL but the defendant disappearing afterwards.

I was right. The statute of limitations for a Class A Felony is 15 years.

40-2-101. Felonies. —

(a) A person may be prosecuted, tried and punished for an offense punishable with death or by imprisonment in the penitentiary during life, at any time after the offense is committed.

(b) Prosecution for a felony offense shall begin within:

 (1)  Fifteen (15) years for a Class A felony;

 (2)  Eight (8) years for a Class B felony;

 (3)  Four (4) years for a Class C or Class D felony; and

 (4)  Two (2) years for a Class E felony.*

So Extremely Aggravated Kidnapping could be prosecuted even after the statute would bar the rape charge. Note that only included part of the limitations statute, and there are exceptions/tolling issues to consider as well…

On sentencing:

*40-35-111. Authorized terms of imprisonment and fines for felonies and misdemeanors. —

(a) A sentence for a felony is a determinate sentence.

(b) The authorized terms of imprisonment and fines for felonies are:

 (1)  Class A felony, not less than fifteen (15) nor more than sixty (60) years. In addition, the jury may assess a fine not to exceed fifty thousand dollars ($50,000), unless otherwise provided by statute;

 (2)  Class B felony, not less than eight (8) nor more than thirty (30) years. In addition, the jury may assess a fine not to exceed twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000), unless otherwise provided by statute;

 (3)  Class C felony, not less than three (3) years nor more than fifteen (15) years. In addition, the jury may assess a fine not to exceed ten thousand dollars ($10,000), unless otherwise provided by statute;

 (4)  Class D felony, not less than two (2) years nor more than twelve (12) years. In addition, the jury may assess a fine not to exceed five thousand dollars ($5,000), unless otherwise provided by statute; and

 (5)  Class E felony, not less than one (1) year nor more than six (6) years. In addition, the jury may assess a fine not to exceed three thousand dollars ($3,000), unless otherwise provided by statute.*

Again, I only posted the first part of the statute.

No, the victim was not the husband’s wife. I’m still thinking through the basics of the story, but I’m imagining something like this: In Year X, the husband commits a rape (or more likely a series of rapes) on vulnerable women and is never caught. He reforms, or says he reforms. (The story will be told from the wife’s POV, so the issue of his reformation may be iffy.) Years later, the husband meets the wife. At some point during the courtship, he tells her that he committed crimes before he knew her, but is no longer that guy. She sees no evidence of him still being a sick bastard and believes he’s basically a good guy; maybe she convinces herself that he is exaggerating or whatnot. Y years after they marry, they chance upon a woman–say while having dinner one night–who is simply terrified at the sight of the husband; she was one of the rape victims. The woman later approaches the wife and tells her that the husband held her prisoner and raped her repeatedly over the course of a weekend, leaving her terrified of him. The husband does not deny this, and the revelation forces the wife to reevaluate her judgment of the husband.

What I’m trying to figure out, then, is what the husband can reasonably have done to the victim so that it’s understandable that the sight of him, years later, makes her piss her pants; and yet enough time can have passed so that he no longer faces any criminal sanction.

I don’t think time is the way to go here, considering the statute of limitations issues. Why not have the guy found not guilty at trial? That way, he’s forever off the hook for that particular crime.

Or, maybe he did it as a juvenile, was processed through the Youth Court system, and was released at age 21 (or whatever the age of majority in TN is). He can’t be prosecuted or punished again for it…might have to register as a sex offender…

Because the story’s about the wife, not the husband. He admits to what he did to the victim and says he regrets it, and the wife has seen no evidence whatsoever to think that he is still that guy. But meeting one of his actual victims still makes him doubt her.

Guess that means you won’t use the ending I had in mind: She accepts him, agrees to marry him, and the victim’s dad (or other victims’ dad/brother/friend) takes him out with a rifle as he’s leaving the church…or “speaks now (while holding his Piece)”, denounces the guy, and blows him away during the ceremony.
You’ve got Redemption, Violence, and a Pun.

Changing the rifle to a vintage Colt “Peacemaker” would really round out the pun. :slight_smile:

Skald, does the abduction cause additional story issues – doesn’t holding someone over several days open the character to additional charges? Abduction? Kidnapping? IANAL Are the SOL the same on that?

Sounds like the wife is extremely naive.
Yes, someone can reform from a date rapist. ( when you’re dealing with sex there’s bound to be a lot of misunderstandings) but not a real honest to god rapist. They are too psychologicly fucked up to be able to reform