Overturned rape conviction: Time for laws to be updated?


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Is a man who enters a sleeping woman’s dark bedroom and tricks her into having sex by impersonating her boyfriend guilty of rape? According to a state appeals court, no. But if she had been a married woman? Yes.

The reluctant 2nd District Court of Appeal unanimously overturned the rape conviction of Julio Morales, who entered a sleeping woman’s dark bedroom, after her boyfriend walked out, and began having intercourse with her. The woman screamed and resisted when she awoke and realized Morales was not her boyfriend, the court said.


The appeals court relied on a criminal code enacted in 1872 that defined rape as an act of sexual intercourse ‘with a female not the wife of the perpetrator.’

The law was amended a couple of years later to specify that such sex would be rape if the victim ‘submits, under the belief that the person committing the act is her husband, and this belief is induced by any artifice, pretense, or concealment practiced by the accused.’

‘We reluctantly hold that a person who accomplishes sexual intercourse by impersonating someone other than a married victim’s spouse is not guilty of the crime of rape of an unconscious person,’ the decision said.

From Times reporter Maura Dolan’s Friday article:

The court urged the Legislature to change the archaic law to ‘correct the incongruity that exists when a man may commit rape … when impersonating a husband, but not when impersonating a boyfriend.’

The justices noted that prosecutors advanced two legal theories — that the defendant raped by tricking the victim, which applies only to married women, and that he committed rape by having sex with a sleeping person.

Because it was unclear under which theory the jury convicted Morales, the court overturned the conviction. If Los Angeles prosecutors retry Morales, they may prevail only under the sleeping person theory and only if they prove Morales knew the woman was sleeping when he had sex with her, the court said.

What do you think of the court’s ruling? Is it time for the Legislature to update the laws on the books? Let us know in the comments section, on our Local Facebook page or by tweeting @LANow.


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--Maura Dolan and Samantha Schaefer