California Enacts New Law Prompted by Brock Turner Case

California passed a new law last week that expands the legal definition of rape and mandates prison time for those convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious victim.

The bill, signed Friday by Gov. Jerry Brown, came in reaction to the short jail sentence imposed on Brock Turner, the former Stanford University swimmer who sexually assaulted a woman by a dumpster after a campus party.

The victim’s gut-wrenching statement about how the trial forced her to re-live the attack went viral and prompted national outrage over what activists called a lenient penalty. That anger was also directed at the man who sentenced Turner, Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky, who now faces a recall effort.

Assemblyman Evan Low (D-San Jose) spearheaded the legislation, titled AB 2888, with Assemblyman Bill Dodd (D-Napa) and state Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo). Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen praised the bill.

“The national awakening about campus sexual assaults started by Emily Doe’s powerful letter continues to grow, changing our minds and our laws,” Rosen said. “While prisons are not appropriate for every person convicted of a crime, rapists belong in prison.”

Critics of the policy call it a step backward for hard-fought criminal justice reforms to undo tough-on-crime laws that led to illegal overcrowding in California jails and prisons.

AB 2888 prevents judges from granting probation for a number of sex crimes, including sexually penetrating an intoxicated or unconscious person. Under the new law, those crimes would require at least a three-year prison sentence. Attempted rape would mandate two years in state prison.

In Turner’s case, prosecutors asked for a six-year prison term. But Persky hewed to a recommendation for a shorter jail stay from the probation department, which provides jurists with ostensibly neutral sentencing guidelines calculated by an algorithmic risk assessment for sex offenders.

In the sentencing hearing, Persky said he considered Turner’s remorse, age, intoxication and lack of a criminal record in his decision. By law, all jurists have to weigh those variables. To see the checklist of considerations, read Turner’s sentencing packet.

Persky, however, was accused of going easy on Turner because he’s white, privileged and attended the same elite university the judge attended years ago. This new law will prevent all jurists from prescribing jail or probation for the same crimes.

Civil rights groups pointed out that California has a longstanding pattern of passing policy in response to high-profile cases. In a legislative session soon after the Turner case made global headlines, Mica Doctoroff, a legislative coordinator for the California American Civil Liberties Union, cautioned politicians about the unintended consequences of imposing harsher penalties.

“As we have learned again and again, mandatory-minimum sentencing is poor policy that disproportionately impacts communities of color,” Doctoroff said. “California already provides adequate sentencing scheme for the serious crimes addressed by the bill.”

In a statement after signing the bill, Gov. Brown said he’s generally opposed to mandatory-minimum law. But AB 2888, he said, would bring “a measure of parity to sentencing for criminal acts that are substantially similar.”

The law came days after he approved another policy that lifts the statewide statute of limitations for sex crimes. Legislators penned the measure after more than 50 women accused comedian Bill Cosby of drugging and raping them over the past three decades.

This article has been updated.

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.

17 Comments

  1. Might I suggest this is not an “expansion” of the law, but a correcting of existing law that was on the books? Rape is rape and always has been, whether you are conscious, unconscious, male or female. This acknowledges something we should have been able to take for granted all along.

    • > Rape is rape and always has been, whether you are conscious, unconscious, male or female.

      Wrong.

      Rape is NOT always rape as long as Bill Clinton is allowed to get away with it, Hillary Clinton enables it, the establishment media decides that special prosecutors who ask questions about it are “partisan” and “sex perverts”, and the Democrat Party voter base pretends that nothing happened because evil Republicans are just trying to embarrass Hillary and prevent her from getting elected.

      “Social conservatives” have no hesitation whatsoever to condemn rapists and see them punished.

      The “rape culture” is the ugly reality of the “free love” and “sexual liberation” ethos so embraced and worshipped by today’s “progressives” and their cultural forebears.

      • Your last paragraph is right on the money. I find it hypocritical that a woman can get as drunk as a man, but it’s totally the mans responsibility to not engage in behavior resulting from that drunken state, and possibly going to jail for it.

  2. Here’s what appears when you click on the rape sentencing package so-called link : This file may have moved.
    Please try a search.

    • > Stanford is not an Ivy League University,

      Some of my Harvard friends will concede, though, that Stanford is possibly a very good second tier school.

  3. “The law came days after (the governor) approved another policy that lifts the statewide statute of limitations for sex crimes”

    Oh no! My prom date from 30 years ago can now have me arrested for feeling her up in the car ,right before she slapped my face, after we drank that beer!

    I’m going to give my sons a “pre-date contract” wherein their prospective date gives written approval for the type of behavior that she will allow on the date, i.e., kissing but no touching; fondling but not below the waist; or below the waist if it’s over, (or under) clothing but only after a dinner that cost a minimum of ($25?) dollars and then only if my parents like,( or don’t like) you, or if you like,( or don’t like) the new tattoo on my backside, etc. There, case closed.

    There will also be an assumption of risk clause dependent on the amount of cleavage displayed and/or flirting involved

    The date must always begin only after the reading of the mandated “Feminist Rights Warning”, to wit:

    “You have the right to remain celibate. If you give up the right to remain celibate, anything you say, touch or do will be used against you in a court of feminists. You have the right to talk to a chaperone and to have the chaperone present before any dating. Keeping your rights in mind, do you wish to go on this date?”

    There will also be a State mandated urine test to check for “performance enhancing” drugs. Or we can just go “Anthony Weiner” and date by cell phone, Skype or Instagram.

  4. “As we have learned again and again, mandatory-minimum sentencing is poor policy that disproportionately impacts communities of color,” Doctoroff said. More ACLU drivel. Mandatory minimum sentencing is indeed poor policy, but not because it affects “communities of color” disproportionately. If the minimum sentences are MANDATORY, they affect every person sentenced equally, regardless of race, color, or creed. If “communities of color” are indeed affected more than white communities, it’s because “people of color” are disproportionately committing crimes. Mandatory minimums which remove discretion from sentencing judges are an issue not because they discriminate racially, but because they allow no judicial discretion for cases that don’t fit neatly into a single box. The downside of eliminating mandatory minimums and investing complete discretion in each individual judge is, as the data seems to indicate, that white or privileged defendants are often given lighter sentences by many judges than are non-white, non-privileged defendants for the same crime. Time to re-educate judges on this issue.

  5. Every time I see that pic of Brock what’s-his-name, I hear the sounds of ‘feminist’ heads exploding.☺

  6. Does this mean illegal aliens will be prosecuted equally under the law in sanctuaries cities, or will the usual catch and release program be in effect?

  7. Mr Turner is not a rapist. That was not his conviction.
    The letter presented at sentencing was written by the Stanford professor, not the victim. It is a sympathetic story not based on facts. Would the hospital not clean her up?
    Time to move on.

  8. Changing the law was obvious to me and I laid out the need to do so in my op-ed published by the Mercury on June 15, 2016. The Mercury followed with its own editorial, the District Attorney obtained the support of Evan Low and Jerry Smith and the merits of the needed change were adopted by the Legislature. Here is op-ed that started helped bring about this change.

    The law on rape sentencing needs to change

    By Richard Alexander

    A three-month county jail sentence would never have been given to Brock Turner if the sentencing criteria under the California Rules of Court did not allow felony rape and sexual penetration of an unconscious woman to be considered “substantially less serious than the circumstances typically present in other cases.”

    The firestorm of outrage at the infamous three-month county jail sentence for a convicted male college student is justified. The failure of justice falls on both the judge and the law. Judge Persky followed a bad law, and the result is a bad decision. In this case, as Charles Dickens said, the law “is a ass – a idiot.”

    The punishment does not fit the crime because Turner’s crimes are not less serious than typically seen, but more serious. The sentencing guidelines give no weight to the lifelong dehumanization inflicted by this predator on his prey.

    The damage inflicted in these cases is severe, deep and lasting. It is life altering and the collateral damage impacts the survivor’s significant other, caregivers, parents and siblings. It extends to children, greater family, friends and co-workers. It destroys relationships and marriages. Years later anxiety rears its ugly head on the anniversary of the attack, during pregnancy, giving birth, when a survivor’s child goes to school, reaches puberty, and begins socializing.

    The minimum punishment for Mr. Turner’s crimes is two and three years in state prison. Under the Rules of Court a judge “should” determine whether a criminal defendant is eligible for probation in the “unusual case where the interests of justice would best be served.” There are multiple criteria. The chief is whether the crime is “substantially less serious than the circumstances typically present in other cases.” That is where Adult Probation and Judge Persky both dropped the ball. The interests of justice can never be served when a comatose victim is sexually penetrated. When a crime is heinous, the analysis must stop with the crime. No need to consider the absence of significant criminal history, a high likelihood the defendant would respond favorably to mental health counseling, the youth of the offender or anything else.

    There are two changes to our law to avoid a repeat of this debacle. First, the Judicial Council should amend the sentencing guidelines so that first offenders in cases of attempted rape and penetration of an unconscious or oblivious victim do not qualify for a lesser offense. Additionally, the Legislature can amend the statutes for those convicted of these offenses by making state prison mandatory and the crimes ineligible for consideration for a lesser penalty.

    California’s strong policy of probation for first offenders is laudatory, but it strongly favors college students from the upper class. The chance of avoiding prison is stacked in favor of a privileged, white, upper class male, age 20, from a “good family” with a distinguished record, and letters of recommendation. Not so for an unemployed black or brown high school dropout with a gang tattoo. The punishment should be the same.

    There should be no rush to remove judicial discretion in all sentencing. There can be unintended consequences and change requires careful thought because it can result in a miscarriage of justice. Limiting a judge’s discretion is a serious price to pay, as we know from the federal courts with outrageous mandatory sentences for crack users compared to cocaine offenders. There is no such harm in uniform sentencing of men convicted of penetrating an unconscious or obivious woman.

    For our daughters and granddaughters, having a uniform rule sends a message that is clear, unequivocal and just: convicted sexual predators will go to prison, whether they are from campus or across the tracks.

    • Well said Mr Alexander,
      What would your opinion be if the perpetrator’s was named Bill Clinton?

  9. Let’s pass laws to protect men from this heinous crime…and anyone who thinks a man can’t be raped, has never been through a divorce in California.