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What You Need to Know about California’s New Sexual Assault Laws

What You Need to Know about California’s New Sexual Assault LawsSexual assault is legally defined as the act of sexual contact or behavior without consent from the victim. As many people know, sexual assault can take many forms. Some examples of sexual assault can be attempted rape, forced unwanted touching, forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, and forced penetration of the victim’s body.

In the past, many perpetrators of sexual assault have dodged legal repercussions based on technicalities and what is perceived as sexual assault. To help maintain a broader perspective of the types of actions that can be considered as sexual assault, Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed several new sexual assault bills into law.

The new sexual assault bills consist of Assembly Bill 453 (AB 453), AB 1171, AB 939, and Senate Bill 215 (SB 215). Two of the sexual assault bills (AB 453 and AB 1171) were authored by Assemblymember Cristina Garcia, while SB 215 was co-authored by Senator Connie Leyva.

Some of the questionable tactics that are addressed through these bills include removing a condom without a person’s permission, drawing a legal distinction between rape and spousal rape, granting victims of sexual assault permission to track and receive information related to their sexual assault evidence kit, and barring the use of a sexual assault victim’s clothing as evidence of consent in a sexual assault case.

What is AB 1171 doing?

The next sexual assault bill, AB 1171, removes the legal distinction between rape and spousal rape in California law. This law is crucial because unfortunately, California was still one of the nine states that drew a distinction between rape and spousal rape.

Some states still held onto the archaic belief that a spouse cannot commit the act of rape against their spouse, and removed spousal rape from their sexual assault statutes. Thanks to the passing of this law, the fact that the victim of sexual assault was married to their spouse will not matter. A marriage license will not determine whether a spouse can be held liable for rape against their spouse.

What is AB 939 doing?

AB 939 is one of the most influential laws we have seen to date. Under this bill, the way that a sexual assault victim was dressed will no longer be considered as evidence of consent in a trial. Prior to the passing of this law, many members of society, including law enforcement officials, would take the sexual assault victim’s clothing into consideration and use the victim’s clothes as justification for sexual assault.

AB 939 sets a precedent in California law that clothing can never, ever dictate consent. The new law allows victims of sexual assault to feel more confident in seeking legal action against their perpetrators without feeling judged and re-victimized by law enforcement officials.

What is AB 453 doing?

The new sexual assault law AB 453 makes “stealthing” an illegal offense. Stealthing is the act of removing a condom without asking for consent from the other party. Under AB 453, the act of stealthing would not be criminalized on its own; however, it will be categorized as a form of sexual battery. The AB 453 bill allows victims of stealthing to take civil action against their perpetrators. This bill helps to stress the importance of consent between two parties.

What is SB 215 doing?

SB 215 sexual assault bill revolves around how sexual assault victims can track and receive information about their sexual assault evidence kits. Thanks to this bill, sexual assault victims will have an easier time accessing and keeping track of where their sexual assault kits are in the process. (You can read our assessment of SB 215 here.)

Victims will be able to access the status of their sexual assault kits through a new online portal that grants victims access to the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Tracking (SAFE-T) database. Through this database, victims will be able to privately and electronically track and obtain updates regarding the location, status, and additional information regarding their sexual assault kits. Sexual assault victims should absolutely feel empowered by being able to keep track of their sexual assault kits every step of the way, and ensuring that rapists are held accountable for their actions.

Why is SB 215 so important?

The number of sexual assault kits that are currently waiting for process has been 14,000 since the year 2017. The ability of sexual assault victims to easily access the status of their sexual assault kits allows victims to hold law enforcement officials accountable in processing their kits in a timely manner.

Having access that allows sexual assault victims to keep track of their sexual assault kits also allows sexual assault victims to remain active and aware of their own investigations. Instead of waiting on receiving a phone call from a police officer or receiving information in person, victims can locate all information about their sexual assault kits online at any minute.

At Taylor & Ring, we routinely handle complex, high-profile sexual assault cases throughout Southern California. We understand what you’re up against. You can trust us to protect your family and your future. To schedule a free consultation with one of our sexual assault attorneys in Los Angeles, please call 310-776-6390 or fill out our contact form. If you cannot come to us, we can travel to you.

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