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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Redefining Rape in California

rape
For those who were following the case of the Stanford University swimmer who was charged with the sexual assault of a fellow student, it is likely that you were outraged at the sentence he received. Brock Turner was looking at a maximum of 14 years in prison for the three felony charges he was convicted of, crimes which included:
  • Assault with the intent to commit rape of an unconscious person.
  • Sexual penetration of an unconscious person.
  • Sexual penetration of an intoxicated person.
The crimes Turner was convicted of were heinous to be sure, yet Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky handed Turner only six (6) months in county jail and three (3) years of probation, according to The Los Angeles Times. With good behavior, the former Stanford swimmer will probably only serve half of his sentence.

Citizens of California and millions across the country were surprised and are up in arms about the lenient sentence. Nearly a million Americans have signed petitions in an attempt to urge the California Commission for Judicial Performance to remove Judge Persky, the article reports. While the sentence Turner received is tragic and Persky may be called to account, the case brings into question what would appear to be outdated rape sentencing laws. Members of the California Legislature argue that the state's definition of rape is out of date.

It turns out that Turner’s light sentence was the product of how the law on rape was written, defining rape as involving human penetration, and not foreign objects. In California, the definition of rape includes "sexual intercourse"—foreign objects fall under sexual assault which carry less severe sentences.

On Monday, Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) and Assemblywoman Susan Eggman (D-Stockton) put forward a last-minute bill to widen the scope of the state's definition of rape as beyond "an act of sexual intercourse." If passed, the legislation would add "penetration" of any kind without consent to the state's definition of rape.

“We found a loophole in California’s criminal code and need to fix the law to send a strong message that we do not accept rape in California," said Assemblywoman Garcia. 

Ronald G. Brower is a criminal defense attorney in Southern California. Based out of Orange County, Attorney Brower has represented individuals charged with crimes in state and federal court.

Contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower online or by telephone at 714-997-4400.

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