—by Astrid Quiñones
Source: Sex Crimes: Mandatory Prison Sentence, California, Assembly Bill No. 2888, https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160AB2888
Abstract: In response to the Brock Turner case, California enacted legislation to disallow probation and provide a mandatory minimum three-year sentence for defendants convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious victim.
“I do not know your name — but I know that a lot of people failed you [. . .].” – Joe Biden, Vice President of the United States
Stanford rape survivor “Emily Doe” was sexually assaulted by Brock Turner while she was unconscious behind a dumpster. Earlier this year, Turner was convicted of three felonies, including assault with intent to commit rape, penetration of an unconscious person with a foreign object, and penetration of an intoxicated person. However, Turner was sentenced to six months in jail and was released after only serving half of his sentence.
Prior law prohibited a court from granting probation or suspending the execution or imposition of a sentence if a person was convicted of violating specified provisions of the law, including rape by force, pandering, and aggravated sexual assault of a child. But the prior law did not include this prohibition for victims who were unconscious or incapable of providing consent due to intoxication. Thus, the judge had the authority to provide a lenient sentence to Turner.
In response to Turner’s case, California lawmakers proposed legislation to correct this failure. The bill, AB 2888, ends a discrepancy in the California penal code that permits probation for defendants convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious victim. Also, it invokes a mandatory minimum three-year prison term for crimes regardless of whether the victim is conscious.
The bill had bipartisan support and quickly passed through the Senate and Assembly, and was signed by California Governor Jerry Brown (D.). However, the bill did not go unopposed. The American Civil Liberties Union and the California Public Defenders Association argued that state law already provided an adequate sentencing scheme. Arguably, changing the sentencing laws was not the appropriate solution to such a serious problem.
In the United States, one in four women are likely to be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, out of 344 incidents that are reported to the police, only 6 perpetrators will be incarcerated. The bill reflects the growing awareness of the need to protect women and the need to hold their offenders accountable. The hope is to avoid such injustice from occurring and successfully treat sexual assault victims equally.