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Lawmakers Vote to Close 'Impersonator Rape' Loophole
2013-08-19 04:45:35 PM
SACRAMENTO — State lawmakers have sent Governor Jerry Brown legislation that refines the definition of rape in light of a provocative ruling issued by the Second District Court of Appeal in January.
In People v. Morales, the court "reluctantly" overturned the rape conviction of a man who posed as a sleepy woman's boyfriend to obtain sex from her. California's current rape law covers impersonators, the court said, but only those who act as spouses.
"It is unbelievable in 2013 that a rape prosecution hinges on a victim's marital status," said the bill's co-author, Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, R-San Luis Obispo.
Assembly Bill 65, passed by a 75-0 vote in the Assembly on Monday, expands the definition of rape to include a suspect who coerces sexual activity by posing as a victim's partner, whether or not that person is married.
"AB 65 makes it clear that rape is rape and it will not be tolerated," said Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, the bill's other co-author.
In the Morales case, a woman's boyfriend had left their bed and she had fallen asleep before Julio Morales entered her darkened bedroom and began having sex with her. The justices noted that if she was asleep, then the act would constitute rape. But because prosecutors also accused Morales of trickery, and the jury was instructed on it, the court said it had no choice but to vacate the conviction. The court also noted that the loophole had been identified 30 years ago, yet never fixed by lawmakers.
Achadjian pursued similar legislation in 2011 after Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley complained that state law barred her from pursuing a rape case against a man who broke into a sleeping woman's house at night and, posing as her boyfriend, had sex with her. That bill stalled in the state Senate.
Appearing at a press conference Monday, Dudley clutched the woman's photo and said that 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."
But with the passage of AB 65, she added, "Today is the beginning of her healing process."
Brown has not taken a public position on the bill.
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