This bill would increase the penalties for a juvenile that sexually assaults a person who is in a defenseless state—unconscious or developmentally disabled. Additionally, Audrie’s Law would create a crime enhancement for any sexual assault in which the offender disseminates media of the incident with the intent to further harm their victim.
A tragic incident in Senate District 15 has prompted the introduction of SB 838. Audrie Pott, a young woman with a promising life ahead of her, was brutally sexually assaulted at a high school party while in a defenseless state. The deplorable nature of this crime was exacerbated when the three assailants took pictures of the assault in progress and electronically disseminated pictures in an attempt to shame and bully Audrie. Unfortunately, days after the pictures emerged, Audrie took her own life. Since this time, the perpetrators have been found guilty, their identities concealed and punishment minimal due to their juvenile status.
Current law contains a list of crimes, if committed by a juvenile, that can be tried in adult court and proceedings open to the public. These crimes include forced rape, sodomy, and oral copulation. However, the list does not include sex offenses where the victim was in a defenseless state. The sexual assault was committed while Audrie was incapacitated, without force, thus preventing the court proceedings from being open to the public or tried in adult court. This resulted in weak punishments for the assailants that did not match the crime.
SB 838 would close this loophole in the law, as well as create a new crime enhancement in the California Penal Code pertaining to “Cyberbullying” a victim of sexual assault.