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CA bill would extend definition of rape, increase penalties

A proposed bill that would expand the definition of rape in California is gaining steam. The bill is known as "Audrie's Law" and would expand the legal definition of forcible rape to include sexual assault of a person who is unconscious or developmentally disabled. 

The bill was named after a teenage girl who was sexually assaulted at a house party when she was unconscious. After the sexual assault, the girl felt tormented online after photos of her unconscious at the party surfaced. She later committed suicide. The three defendants in her case received sentences between 30 and 45 days under the juvenile justice system. 

"Audrie's Law" would not only add the sexual assault of an unconscious or developmentally disabled person to the state's definition of rape but also impact the mandatory sentencing for defendants convicted of this crime. The bill would require juvenile offenders to receive a minimum sentence of two years if they are convicted of sexually assaulting a person who is unconscious or developmentally disabled. The bill would also allow these cases to be in open court instead of the usual private courtrooms used in juvenile cases. 

"Audrie's Law" also requires an additional mandatory sentence of one year for any juvenile offenders who rape an unconscious or development disabled person and posts pictures or messages online that would identify, harass, bully or humiliate the victim. 

The proposed bill still has to be approved by the Senate and signed by the governor before it becomes a law. However, if this bill is passed, it could result in much harsher sentences for juvenile offenders convicted of raping certain individuals in California. 

Source: NBC Bay Area, "'Audrie's Law' Bill Clears Senate Committee Hearing," Jodie Hernandez and Christie Smith, April 30, 2014

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