Lawmakers vow to close legal loophole in rape cases
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State lawmakers are vowing to close a legal loophole cited by a state appeals court this week in a controversial ruling that overturned the rape conviction of a California man.
On Wednesday, the Los Angeles-based 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled that a man who impersonates someone in order to have sexual intercourse may be guilty of rape only if the victim was married and the man was pretending to be her husband.
The court urged the Legislature to change the state’s archaic rape law to ‘correct the incongruity that exists when a man may commit rape … when impersonating a husband, but not when impersonating a boyfriend.’
On Friday, lawmakers pledged to introduce legislation to close the loophole.
“Californians are justifiably outraged by this court ruling,’ said Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian (R-San Luis Obispo) in a statement, ‘and it is important that the Legislature join together to close whatever loopholes may exist in the law and uphold justice for rape victims.’
Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) said she would join Achadjian in introducing legislation that would expand the definition of rape to include those impersonating the victim’s boyfriend or significant other.
‘The current definition in state law is a relic from the 1870s,’ Lowenthal said in a statement. ‘Allowing this to stand in the 21st century would be like applying horse and buggy standards to our freeways.’
State Sen. Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also vowed to act.
‘Having sex with an unconscious person is rape. Period,’ she said.
The decision of the state appeals court voided the conviction of Julio Morales, who in 2009 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.
Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris pledged to work with lawmakers to change the law.
“The evidence is clear that this case involved a nonconsensual assault that fits within the general understanding of what constitutes rape,’ Harris said in a statement.
--Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento