‘Audrie’s Law’ Aims to Toughen Sex Crime Statutes

Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) proposed changes this week to the state's sex crime statues titled “Audrie’s Law,” in reference to Audrie Pott, the 15-year-old Saratoga girl who hanged herself after being sexually assaulted and bullied by classmates.

Pott's parents had lobbied for the bill, which would enact four main changes to California law. Sexual assaults involving any kind of penetration would become a felony in both juvenile and adult cases. Sharing photos of an assault online would become a felony, updating the law to make it more relevant to the digital age. Blacked-out victims would receive equal treatment under sexual assault laws. And judges would have the option of publicly disclosing the name of a minor charged with sexual assault and listing juveniles as sex offenders under Megan’s Law.

"This new piece of legislation is the first step in ensuring that our laws catch up with technology," Robert Allard, the Potts' attorney, told San Jose Inside. "When someone distributes an image of another against their consent which is pornographic in nature, it will hereinafter be treated as a crime. Also, the law will not cut a break to those rapists who prey on drugged or intoxicated victims. Unconscious or disabled victims will now have equal protection under the law."

Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen helped draft the bill after consulting with Audrie's parents, Sheila and Lawrence Pott.

“Victims of sexual assault and their families are no less devastated because the offender was a juvenile,” Rosen said.  “Audrie’s legacy, through this proposed law, will protect victims’ rights by making the consequences of cyberbullying more severe. It also throws open previously closed court doors, so that the public may hold everyone accountable in the wake of these tragic cases.”

The bill specifically aims to exact stricter punishments on juveniles found guilty of sexual assault, who often end up with sentences that many believe are too lax given the severity of their crimes, Beall spokesman Rodney Foo said. Basically, Sen. Beall wants adolescents accused of rape tried as adults.

“Despite the devastation they have caused, these perpetrators are then free, able to continue their lives, education and careers in anonymity,” Foo said. “Their violent crimes are basically invisible to the community.”

Audrie Pott was a Saratoga High School sophomore when she took her own life in September 2012. A little more than a week earlier, she had passed out at a friend’s house after drinking Gatorade mixed with alcohol. She woke up naked, with obscene comments, arrows and circles scribbled in Sharpie all over her body. The next day, she discovered that some teens at the party had snapped pictures and shot video of her being assaulted and shared them via text message.

“My life is over,” Audrie wrote in a private Facebook message before her suicide, according to Beall's office. “I have a reputation for a night I don’t even remember, and the whole school knows.”

Police arrested three boys—two 15 and one 16 years old at the time of the party—last April. The younger boys were sentenced to 30 weekend days in jail and the oldest received 45 consecutive days. They remain anonymous because of laws protecting the identity of minors in court.

In January, Audrie’s parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the attackers. They said in a press conference that they hope the case gives independent authorities a chance to look into what happened.

“What happened to Audrie must not happen again,” Beall said.

Last year, Beall introduced another bill that sought to help victims of sexual abuse by giving them a bigger window to file a lawsuit against private companies that employed their abuser.

Jennifer Wadsworth is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

9 Comments

  1. Many years ago I too was 16 and drank at the encouragement of another. I passed out and didn’t even know what happened. I was a naïve, innocent girl. What I did know is that I broke my parents rule. Then a few months later learned that I was pregnant. My uncle was a sheriff and I overheard him and my father talking about putting whoever was responsible in jail.
    Hearing this, I would not disclose the boy’s name who at the time was over 18. Back then, I was the one ostracized and shamed.
    So while I feel for these parents, and losing their daughter is so horrible, I feel they just want someone to blame. Making a new law and ruining thousands of lives isn’t going to bring their daughter back. I often have asked myself what good would it have done to ruin a young man’s life? It was an easy decision for me, although I had a very hard time. I ended up not a victim, but a very successful person, maybe because of my situation.
    They are so wrong for what they are doing. And the senator is just using this situation to make a name for himself. Of course It was wrong for the boys to have done this, but their daughter broke some rules herself. Kids will be kids as the saying goes. She wasn’t stable enough to get past this? That is not anyone’s fault except maybe our society.

  2. This happens over-and-over when young people try to fit in and drink when they know it is against the law….for a reason. Also, the guys obviously have no regard for human dignity….which is a by-product of our society. Has anyone ever considered an anonymous hotline where young folks can call to let police know there will be underage drinking to allow them to contact the parents at that address or go and break it up? That is no different than a suicide prevention hotline which one of her friends should have called before she took her life. Some parents ask their teen for a name and phone number to call before they allow them to attend. There is enough blame to go around here, but more laws is NOT the answer and will not make the parents pain go away.

    Vicki Henry
    Women Against Registry dot com

    • I went to your url:

      Women Against Registry gives a voice to the hundreds of thousands of innocent women and children who are being wrongly and unfairly punished because we have a family member who has been convicted of a sexual offense.

      We intend to provide clear and convincing evidence that America’s excessive, unconscionable sexual offense registries are tearing our nation’s families apart, making our communities less safe, violating our constitution, and wasting our tax dollars.

      https://www.womenagainstregistry.org/

  3. This law nor any law will keep what happened here from happening again. All this law will do is punish even more those who have committed a sexual offense and are highly unlikely to do so again. Programs of awareness, education, and prevention are what will keep this from happening again. These sorts of things are not committed by those, especially kids, who have done something really, really stupid and had to face up to it. They are done by those who, like up to 96% of the perpetrators of all sexual crime, have no previous record and are acting out against those they know who are in their circle of family members, peers, and authority figures. This specific type of crime is heavy on peers. Why more laws? Instead spend some money on something that might actually help.

  4. “Premeditation” is a big thing in criminal law. I think when someone takes off someone’s clothes, draws on someone’s naked body and then takes pictures of that person, somewhere along the way there should be a point where “premeditation” can be claimed by a prosecutor. When the pictures are sent or shown later, I think “premeditation” is a slam dunk.

    Sorry, but my impression was that the boys in the Pott case didn’t get caught up in the moment.

  5. It unfortunately can never bring this young lady back, nor explains or excuses this happening by any means. But education and careful examining the circumstances of ones case before considering one a sex offender. No question they should be punished to the fullest. But to put on the list, not convinced. I only say that is because my consideration of the list is a person who seeks out a child for sexual purposes.
    This list has a to wind of a range of reason to be put on it. My son is on it for a rediculous reason, nor should he be on it. These kids to hurt and basically killed this girl should get lots of time in prison , no question. My deepest sympathys

  6. Memorial laws, named laws, whatever you wish to call them, should be outlawed. I’m not saying we shouldn’t punish wrongdoing or look for sensible ways to address crime. However, memorial laws rarely invoke rational thought, and are passed on emotion rather than merit. The result is poorly designed legislation. The list is filling up with drunk and hormone-driven teens as it stands now, and a poorly designed knee-jerk reaction law with a deceased teen’s name attached to it will certainly do little to address the issue.