Legislators in California have passed a bill implementing mandatory prison time for those convicted of sexual assault — thus closing a major loophole in the existing law that allowed the likes of Stanford rapist Brock Turner to get away with a light penalty for raping an unconscious woman.
As BuzzFeed reports, if Gov. Jerry Brown signs the bill into law, the court will not be able to sentence “offenders guilty of rape, sodomy, or other penetration of an unconscious victim” to probation.
Up until now, prison time was only required in cases where the rapist used physical force on the victim — conveniently leaving out cases where victims were unable to fight back because they were unconscious, inebriated or simply incapable of giving consent.
The measure was introduced in response to the six-month sentence given to Turner by Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky in June. Interestingly, the bill was approved just as authorities cut the former swimmer’s punishment, widely condemned as too lenient, into half due to his “good behavior.”
The 20-year-old will be released later this week after serving only three months behind bars.
“Sexually assaulting an unconscious or intoxicated victim is a terrible crime and our laws need to reflect that. Letting felons convicted of such crimes get off with probation discourages other survivors from coming forward and sends the message that raping incapacitated victims is no big deal,” Democratic Assemblyman Bill Dodd said in a statement.
Lawmakers hope the legislation will have an impact on the distressing rape culture, particularly on college campuses. Moreover, under its provisions, Turner would have faced a minimum of three years of prison time.
“This bill is about more than sentencing, it’s about supporting victims and changing the culture on our college campuses to help prevent future crimes,” he added. “I urge Gov. Brown to join the legislature in standing with victims and building a culture that suppresses these reprehensible crimes.”