In lieu of the national outrage over the seemingly light sentence of Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner, the state of California has just proposed a bill which would mandate a minimum sentence of three years for crimes of sexual assault. The legislation, Assembly Bill 2888, was introduced by Democratic Assemblymen Evan Low and Bill Dodd and co-sponsored by Rosen and Democratic state Sen. Jerry Hill. Critics warn that while well intended, we forget about prosecutorial discretions and police discretions, which are the main barriers to rape convictions.
Brock Turner, 20, spiraled into fame when he was convicted of three felony assault charges: assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated woman, sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object, and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object. His sentence drew national outrage and increased dialogue on what it means to have White privilege, because he was only sentenced to six months. It is further projected he will only serve three months of that sentence, when he was facing 10 years imprisonment. The jury deliberated for less than two days over the eight-day trial.
Turner was arrested after two male students witnessed him on top of a drunk and unconscious woman behind a dumpster on campus. will be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, but he still remains free on $150,000 bail.
Sexual Assault vs. Rape
Under California law, Turner was indeed convicted of sexual assault (aka sexual battery) rather than rape. Under the California Penal Code, the definition of rape includes “sexual intercourse,” whereas “forcible acts of sexual penetration” is a separate crime. See CA Penal Code § 243.4. In the Turner case, the foreign object under the statute was Turner’s fingers. In fact, California is one of many states that include body parts that are not sexual organs in its statutes on penetration with a foreign object. Thus, rape is a higher offense.
CA Penal Code § 243.4, also known as California’s sexual battery/assault law, specifically prohibits touching the intimate part of another person for purposes of sexual arousal, gratification, or abuse. It can be tried as a misdemeanor or felony. It is tried as a felony when the victim is unaware of the nature of the act (ie. unconscious), unlawfully restrained, or mentally incapacitated to consent. Continue reading