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NONCONSENUAL SEXUAL ASSAULT IS RAPE UNDER NEW CALIFORNIA LAW

 

On the night of January of 2015, two Stanford University graduate students were bicycling on campus when they saw a male behind a dumpster. The male was on top of a female who appeared to the grad students to be unconscious. The grad students approached to investigate at which point the male ran away, leaving the unconscious female lying, nearly naked, on the ground. One of the grad students chased the male, restraining him until the police arrived. The male turned out to be a 19-year-old Stanford University student athlete swimmer, Brock Turner. Mr. Turner was charged with felony sexual assault. The case went to a jury trial after Mr. Turner refused to accept a plea bargain.

At the trial in early 2016, it was established that both Mr. Brock and his victim attended the same party where the both became highly intoxicated. They did not know each other prior to the party. Mr. Brock insisted that the sex behind the dumpster was consensual. The victim testified that she didn’t remember anything and would not have given her consent to a strange man to have sex behind a dumpster. Ultimately, the jury convicted Mr. Brock on three felony charges of sexual assault. The convictions exposed Mr. Brock to a potential 14 years in prison.

But at the sentencing, the judge sentenced Mr. Brock to six months in county jail and a three-year term of probation. Mr. Brock, by operation of law, was also required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. There was an immediate outcry at the seemingly light sentence. The details of the assault, as they came out in the trial, were brutal and the jury verdict established that the victim did not consent. Many people were outraged by the verdict because they believed it was unusually lenient due to the fact that Mr. Turner was a privileged white student at Stanford University. If the perpetrator had been a non-white underclass 19-year-old, the critics argued, the sentence would have been far harsher.

Apparently, the California Legislature and Governor Jerry Brown agreed. The Turner case prompted the legislature to write new laws that would right this apparent wrong. The legislation, signed into law last year, prohibits judges from sentencing offenders convicted of sexual assault to probation if the victim was unconscious or intoxicated. The legislation also expands the definition of rape to include nonconsensual sexual assault. The laws, which became effective in January of this year, add sex assault crimes to the list of crimes not eligible for probation (Penal Code section 1203.065) and declare that all forms of nonconsensual sexual assault may be considered rape (Penal Code section 263.1.)

Nonconsensual sex, especially on our college campuses, is a polarizing topic. At one extreme, there are those who argue that if the victim chooses to get so inebriated that she is unconscious, she should be responsible for the outcome. At the other extreme, there are those who would practically have both parties sign a document consenting to sex before any act. In between there are many nuances. Next week, I will discuss a rape case at USC that was thrown out by the court when videotapes surface showing the alleged victim leading the male, who she later accused of raping her, to her dorm room and inviting him inside.

Charges of rape or any sexual assault are serious business. It is unfortunate, but sometimes these laws are abused by the victim to retaliate or for other motives. If you have been accused of any sex crime, even if you believe you are innocent, it is important that you consult with an experience sex assault defense attorney. Orange County criminal defense attorney William Weinberg has been defending those accused of criminal acts including, sex crimes, for almost 25 years. Contact him at (949) 474-8008 or by email at bill@williamweinberg.com.