Mandatory Minimum Sentencing for Rape Offenses in California

November 9, 2016

On September 30, 2016, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a new bill into law in response to the 60-day jail sentence imposed in a sexual assault by a former university swimmer. The bill has broadened the definition of rape and includes mandatory prison sentences if the victim is unconscious during a sexual assault.

The victim in the Brock Turner case, who remained anonymous, made an emotional statement about the personal upheaval that the trial caused her. Activists accused the judge of disregarding her feelings and called the penalty lenient. A petition to recall the judge because of the ruling is circulating. Critics complained that both the judge and the defendant attended the same college and claim that the judge’s sentence reflected the current climate of “white privilege.”

Three Democrat Assemblymen backed the bill, AB2888. The Santa Clara County District Attorney stated that although prison is not a viable option for every offender, more serious crimes, including rape, deserve a prison term. Certain sex crimes, including sexual assault of an unconscious or drunk person, will no longer be eligible for probation and will require a minimum prison term of three years. Attempted rape would mean a two-year minimum prison sentence. Critics have countered that the bill undermines efforts to minimize jail and prison overcrowding.

The governor elaborated that the bill will bring justice to ensure fair sentencing for certain similar offenses. In reaction to accusations against Bill Cosby for sex crimes, the governor signed a bill that eliminates the statute of limitations for sex offenses in the state.

A spokeswoman with the California American Civil Liberties Union expressed her concerns that mandatory harsh penalties will negatively affect minorities. She explained that the state already imposes sentencing guidelines to address these types of situations.

In the Brock Turner case, prosecutors sought six years in custody. However, the probation department submitted a presentence report using established sentencing guidelines, which the judge followed. The judge elaborated that he weighed the following factors as determined by law: the defendant’s age, lack of a criminal record, remorse and level of impairment.

Criminal cases sometimes result in civil lawsuits, depending on the type and the ramifications of the offense. Larry Bellomo is a Family, Divorce and Bankruptcy attorney in Orange County, California that has over three decades of experience.