Audrie's Law Faces Tough Assembly Committee Hearing
SACRAMENTO – Audrie’s Law, a proposal requiring mandatory sentencing for juveniles convicted of sexual assaulting unconscious or developmentally disabled victims, will face an uphill battle before the Assembly Committee on Public Safety on Tuesday, June 17, 9 a.m.
“This bill came out of the Senate with zero ‘no’ votes,” said Senator Jim Beall, who authored SB 838. “But it’s been a challenge to convince members of the Assembly committee that what happened to Audrie Pott and to victims in similar situations merits offenders being sent for two years to an out-of-home placement program operated by the local county juvenile probation department where they will receive appropriate rehabilitation services, including sex offender treatment.
“It’s difficult for me to understand why there is opposition to reforming the legal definition of ‘forcible rape’ to include the rape of an unconscious or disabled person. The law must be made to protect victims, not rapists.’’
Audrie’s father, Larry Pott, said he was surprised that there is any opposition to the bill.
“Rape is a horrible crime and for this reason Audrie’s Law was approved 35-0 in the Senate,” Pott said. “Over 112,000 people have signed a petition supporting it. Prosecutors and police chiefs support it. I cannot believe the Assembly committee would consider killing this bill. It defies common sense.
“If lawmakers do not vote for Audrie's Law, they are effectively saying that raping an unconscious victim is less of a crime, and plying a victim with alcohol is acceptable. What happened to Audrie must not happen to another victim – the law needs to be changed. Audrie's Law warns juvenile rapists that their heinous crimes will be taken seriously.”
Sheila Pott, Audrie’s mother, said SB 838 restores balance to the juvenile sexual assault statutes.
“It would be a shame that given the public outcry to address the need for stricter penalties for sexual assault and cyberbullying crimes that we would fail to take actions that lead to this change,’’ she said. “Rapists – whether they are an adult or a juvenile – must be held accountable for their actions. It’s time to take a stand for the victims and to stop coddling the assailants.’’
Besides calling for a mandatory minimum sentence, Audrie’s Law strengthening California’s cyberbullying statutes by adding a sentencing enhancement of one year to any sexual assault in which the offender shares pictures or texts of the crime.
In addition, the bill calls for trials and hearings of juvenile’s charged with sexual assaults under Audrie’s Law to be open to the public and the news media.
The bill is named after Audrie Pott, a Saratoga High student who took her life after she was sexually assaulted while unconscious by classmates and photos of the incident were shared with other students.
A juvenile court, behind closed doors, sustained the charges against the assailants, who were handed down sentences that ranged from 30 to 45 days, according to news reports. Because of their ages, the boys’ identities were withheld by the court.
Appalled by the light sentences for such a severe crime, Audrie’s family sought to change the law with Senator Beall’s help.
The bill is supported by the Santa Clara County Office of the District Attorney, which drafted its language; the Police Chiefs Association; the ARC California; United Cerebral Palsy of California; the American Association of University Women; Crime Victims United of California; the Association of Regional Center Agencies; and the Counseling and Support Services for Youth.