California Passes Mandatory Minimum Bill in Response to Brock Turner Controversy

Image via Getty.
Image via Getty.

California Governor Jerry Brown has signed new legislation that imposes mandatory minimum sentences on some sexual assault crimes as well as expands the definition of rape under California law. Both bills—AB 2888 and AB 701—were introduced by the California legislature in response to the outcry following Brock Turner’s light sentence after the former Stanford student was convicted on three counts of felony sexual assault.

AB 2888, authored by Democrats Evan Low and Bill Dodd, is the most controversial of the two bills passed Friday. The bill effectively imposes mandatory minimum sentences on offenders convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious person. The Los Angeles Times reports that AB 2888 will, “prohibit judges from giving convicted offenders probation when they sexually assault someone who is unconscious or intoxicated.”

The expansion of mandatory minimums to include these offenders has been opposed by a number of feminist groups, as well as the ACLU and public defenders, who argue that the bill would disproportionately affect marginalized groups. At Rolling Stone, lawyer and scholar Bridgette Dunlap noted that the bill is typical of California’s response to crime:

California has a history of reacting to rising crime rates with tough sentencing laws, such as those in the 1970s and 1980s that overcrowded its prisons but did little to improve public safety.

[...]

Yet California’s overwhelming liberal lawmakers almost unanimously passed [AB 2888] that keeps California a leader among the nation in mass incarceration.

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Brown was apparently reluctant to sign the bill (he’s been a critic of mandatory minimums and, earlier this week, signed a bill repealing mandatory sentences for prostitution crimes), but said in a statement that the bill “brings a measure of parity to sentencing for criminal acts that are substantially similar.”

In addition, Brown signed AB 701, another bill that stemmed from the Turner case. The bill that expands the state’s legal definition of rape to include all non-consensual sexual assault. The LA Times reports:

Currently under the law, those convicted of rape using additional physical force must serve prison time. But offenders, like Turner, convicted of sexually assaulting someone who is unconscious or incapable of giving consent because of intoxication, can receive a lesser sentence based on a judge’s discretion.

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Brown signed AB 701 without any statement. Both bills will go into effect in the new year.

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DISCUSSION

sarsattacks
SarsAttacks'll take the wine with the gravy

My fear, as ever and as always with mandatory minimums in a white supremacist culture, is that the mere existence of them with respect to sexual assault will make it less likely for white rapists to even see the inside of a courtroom. That is: we’ll have to endure twice the amount of “their poor lives / futures” handwringing and earlier on in the investigation of any sexually violent crime, with everyone in a position of authority (cops, DAs, judges) Very Concerned about what a mandatory minimum might do to a poor white man no longer eligible for probation, deferred sentencing, or other wrist-slaps. Meanwhile, there will be a push to attach a “sex crime” to any other violent crime a person of color in California might have committed in order to ensure a lengthy and full sentence in a state that continues to use for-profit detention centers and prisons.