A man in Indiana was recently convicted of rape after the jury or judge found that the man had drugged his wife and sexually assaulted her while she was unconscious. The victim told police that her husband had been doing this for over three years, and she only became aware after she saw three sex videos on the man's cell phone. According to the online article on the ABA Journal website, the prosecutor stated that the man denied sexually assaulting his wife but admitted to drugging her without her knowledge and to making the videos. In defense of drugging her, it is claimed that he said "she was snippy and it made her nicer."
History of Spousal Rape Laws
When I was in law school at the University of Pittsburgh, I was very surprised to be told that at one point the law in Pennsylvania and across the nation did not punish a husband for sexually assaulting or raping his wife. It simply was not considered a criminal act. The reasoning behind the law was that the wife had given a legally binding and irrevocable consent to her husband, which meant that even if the wife physically and verbally said no, the husband could forcibly have sex with his wife without recourse. I am sure many people are thinking that such laws were repealed or changed a long time ago. Surprisingly, many states did not make spousal rape a crime until the 1960's and 70's.
Current Pennsylvania Rape Law
Today, a spouse can be charged with raping his or her significant other. Because the sexual assault and rape laws are gender-neutral, a wife could be convicted of raping her husband. Also, with Pennsylvania's recent acceptance of same-sex marriages, a man or woman could be convicted of sexually assaulting their same-sex spouse.
If this case had happened in Pennsylvania, the man would have been charged with numerous sexual assault-related charges, many of which would be lesser included offenses. The most severe charge would be rape. Under 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 3121(a)(4), a person can be convicted of rape in Pennsylvania if it is proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the person engaged in sexual intercourse with a another where the person "has substantially impaired the complainant's power to appraise or control his or her conduct by administering or employing, without the knowledge of the complainant, drugs, intoxicants or other means for the purpose of preventing resistance." Here, the prosecution would clearly have a strong case for prosecuting the Rape charge based upon the man's own admission that he drugged his wife, and he admitted to videoing the sex. He may claim that he never had sex with his wife on the occasions that he drugged her, but I do not believe that a jury would place much credibility on the shoulders of a person that admitted to drugging his wife. Simply stated, the judge probably would not like the man and thereby would not believe him.
Rape Conviction Gets In-home Detention Sentence
What was very surprising in this case was that the judge imposed a sentence of in-home detention instead of jail time. In Pennsylvania, the Rape charge is classified as a felony of the first degree, which means that the maximum sentence faced by the man would be 20 years incarceration. If the man had no prior criminal record, the recommended minimum sentence for the offense under the sentencing guidelines is 60 to 78 months incarceration in a state correctional facility.
In-home detention is often used for less egregious charges, like misdemeanor drug possession, second offense DUIs, Simple Assaults, and some drug delivery or possession with intent to deliver charges. Rape is expressly excluded from receiving an in-home detention sentence. If this rape had occurred in Centre County, I am quite sure that the judges in Bellefonte would have sentenced this man to a lengthy period of incarceration in a state correctional institution, and in-home detention or a county prison sentence would not have been an option.
I do want to note that most judges would look at this offense and would impose a very severe sentence. For a judge to impose an in-home detention sentence in a case like this, I would hope that there would be very, very good reasons and extenuating circumstances. I know that the newspapers often publish a pro-prosecution side of a story, so there could be other facts that the judge considered that were not included in the article. I will not pass judgment on this judge's decision until "I walked a mile in his shoes," but I do admit that the sentence that was imposed does seem extremely lenient based upon the report.