Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Lawmakers Introduce Bills to Rewrite Rape-by-Impersonation Statute
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
Lawmakers in both the state Senate and Assembly have introduced bills to rewrite the state’s rape-by-impersonation statute in the face of a controversial Court of Appeal decision.
SB 59, by Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, and AB 65, by Assembly members Katcho Achadjian, R-San Luis Obispo, and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, were both introduced in response to last Wednesday’s ruling in People v. Morales. Div. Four of this district’s Court of Appeal said that a man who obtains an unmarried woman’s consent to sex by impersonating her boyfriend cannot be found guilty of rape.
The court said it was reluctantly required to overturn Julio Morales’ 2009 conviction “because of historical anomalies in the law and the statutory definition of rape,” establishing legislative intent not to criminalize rape by impersonation unless the person impersonated was the victim’s spouse.
Police said Morales admitted entering a darkened bedroom where a woman was sleeping and having sex with her. The 18-year-old woman said she initially mistook the defendant for her boyfriend, who had left earlier, but resisted when she realized it wasn’t him.
Morales was tried under theories of rape of an unconscious person and rape by impersonation. While the former theory was a correct one, Justice Thomas L. Willhite Jr. wrote, the case must be retried because it could not be determined which of the two theories the jury relied on in reaching a guilty verdict.
Under Evans’ bill, the definition of rape by impersonation would be expanded to include situations in which the defendant pretends to be the victim’s “sexually intimate partner.” AB 65 would apply where the defendant impersonates the victim’s “cohabitant, fiancé, fiancée, or someone with whom the victim has a dating relationship.”
Both bills were introduced Monday, and each has several co-authors from both parties, enhancing the likelihood that one of them will become law.
Attorney General Kamala Harris last week promised to support efforts to change the law, noting that similar legislation was blocked in the state Senate two years ago under a policy of alleviating prison overcrowding by not considering bills to create new felonies.
The Los Angeles Police Protective League also endorsed the change. In a statement Monday, the LAPPL said the Senate policy, commonly referred to as Receivership/Overcrowding Crisis Aggravation or ROCA, “has gotten in the way of rationalizing California’s Penal Code” and “must be set aside to allow [the fixing of the rape anomaly] to happen.”
Copyright 2013, Metropolitan News Company