Last week, a three-year-old rape conviction in Southern California was overturned by the Second District Court of Appeals in Los Angeles because the court ruled that the state's law would have only considered the woman a victim if she had been married. Essentially, the woman wasn't considered a victim in the case because her attacker pretended to be her boyfriend. New legislation introduced by a Bay Area state senator would change that.
In the 2009 case, Julio Morales was originally convicted of sexually assaulting a sleeping 18-year-old woman while she slept after a party in Cerritos, California by impersonating her boyfriend. LAist filled us in last week:
Prosecutors thought that in this case they had two ways to convict him of rape: to prove that she was tricked into having sex with him or that she could not consent because she was sleeping. Morales' first trial ended in a hung jury, but he was convicted of the "rape of an unconscious person" the second time. The jury who convicted Morales was told that he could be convicted of rape under either theory, but the court says only one of those theories works in California.
Under the current law (which was written in 1870) a person can only be convicted of rape like this if they are impersonating the victim's spouse. Boyfriends, lovers, friends with benefits, significant others, and any other not-legally binding labels people put on their relationships don't count and the court "reluctantly" admitted that the state law doesn't protect the victim in this case.
Even a 1993 amendment to the spousal rape law, which made it illegal to trick or coerce a spouse into consent, only applied to a married woman. When the State Assembly again tried to fix the language in 2011, the legislation died because prison overcrowding legislation started by State Senator Gloria Romero back in 2007 held up any bill that might extend a felon's prison sentence.
Today, California Women's Caucus chairwoman Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa) introduced SB 59, which would update the language to exchange the word "spouse" to "sexually intimate partner" to match these less matrimonially inclined times. It is co-signed by the democratic senate public safety committee chair from Berkeley, among 11 other state senators.
"This is about equality in the law. This is about justice for all," Senator Evans (who is also in the news today because she has inherited Marin as part of her district) said in a press release. "And it’s past time this legislative body correct an arcane law that could let a rapist go free on an outdated statue that provides neither."
Previously: Court: It's Not Rape If You're Pretending To Be Your Victim's Boyfriend [LAist]