Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday signed legislation that expands the legal definition of rape and imposes new mandatory minimum sentences on some sexual assault offenders -- measures inspired amid national outcry over the sexual assault case of former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner.
The decision comes as heated debate has raged this year over the mishandling of sexual assault investigations on U.S. college campuses by police agencies and courts. But increasing punishment for sex offenders posed a challenge for Brown, as the state has been undertaking a broader effort to move away from a focus on prison sentences.
In a message released with his signature, Brown said he was generally opposed to adding more mandatory minimum sentences.
“Nevertheless, I am signing AB 2888, because I believe it brings a measure of parity to sentencing for criminal acts that are substantially similar,” he said.
Assembly Bill 2888, authored by Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell) and Assemblyman Bill Dodd (D-Napa), will prohibit judges from giving convicted offenders probation when they sexually assault someone who is unconscious or intoxicated.
Assembly Bill 701 by Assemblywomen Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) and Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton), will expand the legal definition of rape so it includes all forms of nonconsensual sexual assault.
Currently under the law, those convicted of rape using additional physical force must serve prison time. But offenders, like Turner, convicted of sexually assaulting someone who is unconscious or incapable of giving consent because of intoxication, can receive a lesser sentence based on a judge’s discretion.
Rape has previously been defined as “an act of sexual intercourse” under certain conditions of force, duress or lack of consent. Other types of sexual assault, like penetration by a foreign object, were categorized as separate offenses.
The laws go into effect on Jan. 1, 2017.