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Understanding Changes to California’s Sexual Assault Laws

Posted on in Domestic Violence

San Jose sexual assault defense lawyerSexual violence is an ongoing concern in the United States, and even though the rate of sexual assault has decreased by more than 50 percent since 1993, over 300,000 people are victimized each year, with another person being sexually assaulted every 98 seconds. 

Sexual violence is incredibly damaging to victims; 94 percent of women who are raped experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and 70 percent of sexual assault victims experience moderate to severe distress, which is a higher percentage than for any other violent crime.

Due to these ongoing concerns, as well as some high profile sexual assault cases in the news, the state of California recently made some changes to its sexual assault laws.

Mandatory Minimum Sentences 

People across the country were outraged by the case of Brock Turner, a former Stanford swimmer, who was convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious, intoxicated woman. However, he only received a sentence of six months in jail and three years of probation.

In response, the California legislature passed a bill which requires a mandatory prison term for offenders convicted of sexually assaulting someone who is unconscious and prohibits judges from granting them probation.

Supporters of this bill believe that it is necessary, because sexual offenders deserve harsh sentences. However, critics believe that it will disproportionately affect low-income and minority defendants who do not have the resources to hire a private defense attorney.

Elimination of the Statute of Limitations

In another law inspired by a high profile news story, the California senate passed a bill eliminating the statute of limitations in rape cases. This law came about in response to the accusations against Bill Cosby, and it applies to sexual assaults committed after December 31, 2016, which can be prosecuted at any time in the future. The law is not retroactive, so crimes committed before 2017 are still subject to the previous statute of limitations of 10 years. 

Other New Laws

Two other laws related to sexual offenses went into effect in California in 2017:

  • The definition of rape was expanded to include “all forms of nonconsensual sexual assault.”
  • The possession of “date rape drugs” such as ketamine, GHB, and flunitrazepam with the intent to commit sexual assault has been upgraded from a misdemeanor to a felony. 

Contact a San Jose Criminal Defense Lawyer 

If you have been accused of rape or arrested on sexual assault charges, you need a dedicated criminal defense attorney on your side. At the Law Offices of Erik Steven Johnson, we understand the drastic consequences that these charges will have on your life, and we will work to protect your rights and help you reach the best outcome in your case. Contact a San Jose sexual assault defense lawyer today at 408-246-3004 to schedule a free consultation. 


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