Toughening Mo’s Laws Against Sexual Violence

The Associated Press reports this morning on HBs 215 and 301, both of which include my amendment to close a loophole in Missouri’s rape law which prevents a perpetrator who has sex with a victim who is incapacitated through no act of the perpetrator to avoid a rape charge. The article explains:

Under current law, rape is defined as sex with another person by “forcible compulsion,” which includes using a substance to impair victims without their knowledge or approval. But the measure awaiting the governor’s signature would define rape to also include crimes committed on someone who is “incapacitated, incapable of consent or lacks the capacity to consent.”

“It reframes the crimes to include the experience of the victim of the crime. It is not the crime based on the offender’s actions. It is the crime against the victim without her consent,” said Colleen Coble, a lobbyist for the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.

Under current law, victims cannot give “consent” if they have a mental illness or are intoxicated. The measure passed this year would add “drug-induced state or any other reason” to that definition. It also would delete a section of current law that allows the jury to find a person charged with rape not guilty if he or she “reasonably believed” the victim consented.

Coble said under the law’s current language, an offender could only be tried with a misdemeanor if they sexually assaulted a victim sedated in a hospital room. By changing the definition of rape, she said, that example would become a felony, which currently carries a five-year minimum sentence.

Seeking opposition, the article calls on Joel Elmer, who works for the Missouri public defender system. Elmer says, “While there may be public support increasing the punishment for this behavior, I don’t think there is public support on spending more money on incarceration.”

Ummmm, we’re talking about violent sex offenders. While I’ve heard many people make the case (myself included) that we need a “smarter” criminal justice system – one that better encourages and requires treatment for drug and alcohol abusers through DWI, drug, and veteran’s courts to help offenders get their lives back on track when those offenders are capable of rehabilitation, won’t be a danger to others, and likely to lead productive lives if we can get them treatment to turn their lives around,  I’ve never heard anyone – until this morning – make the case, “Hey we spend too much money on corrections, let’s go a little lighter on the sex offenders.” And for good reason – the violent sex offender is the offender least likely to be rehabilitated and most necessary to keep in prison to protect the public. They ought to be locked up for a long time – which is why I sponsored this legislation and added it as an amendment to several bills throughout the session.

I’m looking forward to Gov. Nixon signing both bills into law.