SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California would toughen penalties for young people convicted sexually assaulting someone who is unconscious under legislation the Senate approved Wednesday in response to an assault on a teenager who later committed suicide.
The bill is named after 15-year-old Audrie Pott, who fell asleep in 2012 after drinking at a friend's party in her hometown of Saratoga, a prosperous Silicon Valley town southwest of San Jose. She awakened to find herself partially clothed and lewd comments scribbled over her body, and she soon discovered that at least one humiliating photo of her was circulating among other students at her high school.
She later hanged herself.
SB838 would close what Sen. Jim Beall called a loophole in state law that provides lesser penalties for juveniles if a victim is unconscious or developmentally disabled and does not have the ability to fight off a sexual assault.
The juveniles who assaulted the Saratoga teenager received sentences of 30 to 45 days, said Beall, D-San Jose, who carried the bill.
"The bill is the direct result of a tragic death," he said. "Their punishment did not match the crime."
Audrie's Law would require that juveniles convicted of such a crime serve at least two years of placement outside their home. It also toughens penalties by an additional year for a sexual assault when the attacker shares photos or texts to harass or humiliate the victim.
Also, court proceedings for a juvenile charged under Audrie's Law would be open to the public. The identities of the three assailants in the Saratoga case were not disclosed because of their ages.
"They destroyed a girl's life, but escaped real punishment because of a technicality in the law," Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, who co-authored the bill, said in a statement.
The Senate approved the measure on a 34-0 vote, sending it to the Assembly.