Recently, California lawmakers agreed to a bill that would close a loophole in the state’s sexual assault laws.
Sexual Assault Laws in California
20-year-old Stanford student, Brock Turner, was recently convicted of sexual assault on an unconscious woman behind a dumpster in early 2015. During the Turner case, it came to public attention that under current CA law, prison time is required for those convicted of sexual assault only if the crime involves a victim that is able to defend himself or herself. So if a victim is unconscious, like in the Turner case, then prison time is not required.
Turner was convicted of assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated woman, sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object, and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object, but only received six months in jail for the crimes. The judge presiding over the case ruled that a longer sentence might have a “severe impact” on him. The ruling caused significant outrage, and a push from lawmakers to update laws regarding sexual assault.
“Sexually assaulting an unconscious or intoxicated victim is a terrible crime,” said Democratic Assemblyman Bill Dodd, who also co-authored the legislation, “and our laws need to reflect that.”
The new bill seeks to strip judges of their ability to sentence offenders to only probation in cases of sexual assault where the victim is incapacitated or unconscious. Had the passed bill been in effect while Brock was being convicted, the student would have faced a minimum of three years in prison. CA Gov. Jerry Brown will just need to sign off on the bill for it to be made law.
What is “Sexual Assault”
Sexual assault is defined as any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of a recipient. Included under the term sexual assault are the following: forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.
What is Rape? Penal Code Section 261 PC
When they hear the term rape, many people create a mental image of an assault committed by means of violent physical force. The reality is, however, that rape is any non-consensual sexual activity, including those accomplished without physical means, using such methods as drugs or guile. Any form of sexual conduct forced on a person against their will through means of violence, menace, duress, fear of injury, or other danger is rape under California law.
There are a number of statutes in California that pertain to rape, all of which are among the most serious of criminal offenses with which an individual can be charged.
The most common type of rape (Penal Code Section 261 PC) is defined as criminal offense that involves nonconsensual sexual intercourse by means of threats, force, or fraud. At its core, this form of rape involves vaginal or anal penetration that includes force by instrumentation on someone, conscious or unconscious, or on any victim unable to consent.
Date rape charges are also filed under Penal Code Section 261 PC. Cases of this nature can sometimes be highly contested between the victim and the accused with the difference between a conviction and an acquittal depending on who the jury believes. The question of if sex took place is often not questioned, but rather was the sex consensual or not? Most of these cases do not involve force or injury to the victim. Often, they are cases of “he said, she said” with the defendant having the greatest stake in the outcome.
Other Forms of Rape:
Other forms of rape warrant their own specific statutes in state law. Examples include:
- Penal Code 262 PC “Spousal Rape.” Anyone who has intercourse with their spouse without their consent and does so with force or threat, and for sexual pleasure or arousal, is guilty of violating California Penal Code 262.
- Penal Code 261.5 PC “Statutory Rape.” Anyone who knowingly has intercourse with a minor can be found guilty of Statutory Rape. A minor is defined as anyone under the age of 18.
Penalties for Rape
Rape is one of the most serious criminal charges that a defendant may face. A case may be highly complex because of circumstances that are difficult to explain and understand. The penalties for these offenses are harsh and conviction includes lifetime sex offender registration.
Addressing False Rape Accusations
Sexual assault crimes are taken very seriously by the law. If you have been falsely accused you might assume that the charges will just be dropped because of how ludicrous they are to you. But take this case for example - and the wide-reaching effects that it had on just members of the fraternity associated with the rape allegations. These types of allegations do not just “go away,” and you will need to be prepared if you are falsely accused.
Here are some things you can do:
- Do not speak with police or investigators until you have contacted a criminal defense attorney. They might try different tactics to get you to admit to a crime you did not commit. Remember that they are always trying to build a case. Simply state that you will not speak with them unless there is an attorney present.
- Get in touch with a qualified and experienced criminal defense attorney. You’ll want to do this as soon as possible, even if you just expect the charges to be dismissed.
- Prepare for what the allegations might bring. You will be asked to defend yourself, so you’ll need to be prepared. This means contacting witnesses that can testify or provide an alibi for you. You might also need to take psychological tests, or be asked to provide other evidence. Write down as many details as possible about what you remember.
- Study. A criminal defense attorney will be able to guide you through fighting the allegations, but it’s in your best interest to understand the legal process and know your rights.
You will want to follow all the legal rules and precautions you can, and the best way you can protect yourself is by working with an experienced defense attorney such as Sevens Legal, APC.
If You Get Arrested for a Sex Crime
In 1966, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Miranda v. Arizona, that individuals arrested because they are believed to have committed a crime are allowed certain rights that must be explained to them. This must happen before any interrogation. It’s important to note that these rights only need to be read when a person has been taken into custody. “Miranda Rights” are meant to protect a suspect from self-incrimination and is protected under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Those “Miranda Rights” are as follows:
- You have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer questions.
- Anything you say may be used against you in a court of law.
- You have the right to consult an attorney before speaking to the police and to have an attorney present during questioning now or in the future.
- If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you before any questioning if you wish.
- If you decide to answer questions now without an attorney present, you will still have the right to stop answering at any time until you talk to an attorney. Knowing and understanding your rights as I have explained them to you, are you willing to answer my questions without an attorney present?
Why Work with a Criminal Defense Lawyer?
When faced with serious penalties or spending time in jail or prison, you need to retain a criminal defense lawyer to represent you in court. If you are facing an assault or battery charge, or a theft charge, a criminal defense attorney will investigate your case’s specifics and determine if you were wrongfully charged. They also will be able to identify if there are any other existing reasons for why the case should be dismissed before it goes to trial. If the charges are not dismissed before trial, a criminal attorney may be able negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor on your behalf. If a plea bargain cannot be negotiated, a criminal defense attorney will prepare your defense and represent you at trial.
Working with Sevens Legal, APC
After you have discussed the specifics of your case, your Sevens Legal, APC, will let you know your case’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as any possible risks associated with punishment and convictions you may face. Your Sevens Legal, APC, defense attorney can help negotiate a plea deal or whether the best course of action is to move forward to trial, while working constantly for your best interests.
Sevens Legal, APC, criminal defense lawyers put our experience to work for you. Every defendant deserves a zealous defense. To schedule your free consultation with one of our Sevens Legal, APC, criminal defense lawyers, call (619) 494-3440. Contact Sevens Legal, APC, today for a free consultation.
Criminal Defense Attorneys
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San Diego, CA 92103
Phone: (619) 297-2800