SACRAMENTO - Governor Brown signed a bill Monday by San Luis Obispo Assembly Member Katcho Achadjian to fix an old rape law that now says an attacker who coerces a victim into sexual activity by impersonating somebody else can be prosecuted for felony rape.
AB 65 is modeled after similar legislation in Idaho and has been drafted specifically to ensure that its provisions cover the myriad types of relationships that exist in modern society. Long Beach Assembly Member Bonnie Lowenthal also helped in the bill.
"Today's action by the Governor concludes a nearly three year effort to close this outdated and unconscionable loophole that has denied victims the justice that they deserve. While Assembly Bill 65 cannot undo what was done to the victims in the Santa Barbara and Los Angeles County cases, it is my hope that knowing that future victims will be protected will bring them a small amount of comfort," stated Assembly Member Achadjian. "I am especially grateful to Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley, whose persistence on this issue was crucial to getting this measure approved," Achadjian continued.
In 2011, Achadjian introduced AB 765 which would have extended the definition of felony rape to cases where an attacker coerced a victim into sexual activity by impersonation a co-habitant (live-in boyfriend or girlfriend). AB 765 was inspired by a case in Santa Barbara County in which the accused broke into the home of a female victim who had been sleeping. The perpetrator instigated sexual activity with the victim who believed that he was her boyfriend. Although the suspect was caught, the District Attorney could not prosecute him for felony rape simply due to the fact that the victim lived with her boyfriend rather than with her husband. Despite receiving unanimous support in the State Assembly, AB 765 was held in the Senate Public Safety Committee.
A recent State Court of Appeals overturned a rape conviction in a similar Los Angeles case. In its ruling the Court stated that the victim had not been raped because she was unmarried and the attacker had impersonated her boyfriend rather than her husband. The outrage following the ruling brought national media attention to Assembly Member Achadjian's ongoing efforts to close this outdated loophole. AB 65 represents a continuation of Achadjian's efforts.
"I am extremely grateful to Governor Brown, Assembly Member Achadjian, and the entire California Legislature for coming together to close this loophole. While nothing will undo what was done to her, I look forward to calling Courtney to let her know that her story has inspired the Legislature to act and that because of her bravery we will be able to deliver justice to victims in the future," stated Santa Barbara District Attorney Joyce Dudley.
Assembly Bill 65 was jointly sponsored by Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, and the California District Attorneys Association, and is supported by a broad coalition of public safety and victim's rights organizations. In addition to Assembly Members Achadjian and Lowenthal, the measure has been co-authored by 71 members of the Senate and Assembly.