California Strengthens Rape Laws After Stanford Case

VOA News

California Governor Jerry Brown has signed two bills to toughen the state’s response to rape crimes, following a high-profile case involving a Stanford University student who received a six-month jail sentence for sexual assault.

One of the bills the Democratic governor approved Friday requires mandatory jail sentences in state prisons for defendants convicted of assaulting unconscious victims, a contrast to the sentence former Stanford student Brock Turner received.

Turner was convicted this year of sexually assaulting a woman who had passed out outside a fraternity party in 2015, and he served his sentence in a county jail before obtaining early release for good behavior. Turner served three months in prison for crimes that carried a maximum penalty of 14 years, sparking a national uproar.

Brown said he usually is opposed to mandatory minimum sentences, but he said the bill would «bring a measure of parity to sentencing for criminal acts that are substantially similar.»

Several groups fighting to end sexual assaults on college campuses opposed the law, arguing that the punishment could more likely affect minorities and lower-income defendants.

The other bill Brown signed Friday broadened the state’s legal definition of rape to include other forms of sexual assault, including penetration with a foreign object, a count with which Turner was charged. The law previously had defined rape more narrowly as nonconsensual intercourse.

The two bills were passed by the state legislature without a dissenting vote.