Attorney David Chesley's Criminal Defense Blog

Loophole Fixed in California Rape Law

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Early this year in People v. Morales, the court overturned a rape conviction of a man who posed as a woman’s boyfriend as she slept in order to have sex with the victim. The court ruled that California’s rape law covered impersonators, however the court said, only when the impersonator acts as a spouse.

Because of the ruling issued by the Second District Court of appeal in January, state lawmakers have sent Governor Jerry Brown legislation that will refine the definition of rape.

Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, the new bill’s co-author said “It is unbelievable in 2013 that a rape prosecution hinges on a victim’s marital status.”

Assembly Bill 65 expands the definition of rape in a court of law, it will now include suspects who coerced sexual activity from the victim while posing as their partner, whether or not the partner was a spouse.  The bill passed on Monday by a 75-0 vote.

The bill’s other author Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal said “AB 65 makes it clear that rape is rape and it will not be tolerated.”

During the Morales case, Julio Morales entered a darkened bedroom and began to have sex with a woman who was asleep. The justices noted that if she was asleep it would constitute as rape, but because Morales was also accused of trickery by the prosecutors, the court said it had no choice but to drop the charges.

Judge Thomas L. Willhite Jr wrote in the court’s decision “Has the man committed rape? Because of historical anomalies in the law and the statutory definition of rape, the answer is no, even though, if the woman had been married and the man had impersonated her husband, the answer would be yes.”

The loophole that lead to Morales’ freedom was identified over 30 years ago according to the court, yet lawmakers never fixed it.

Santa Barbara District attorney Joyce Dudley complained that state law prevented her from pursuing a rape case. At a press conference on Monday, Dudley held the victim’s photo and said the day she told the woman that she could not charge the man with rape was “the worst day of my career as a DA.”

She continued to say that with the passing of AB65, “Today is the beginning of her healing process.”

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