On Friday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed new legislation that will change the way sexual assault cases are handled in the state. The new laws were inspired by Brock Turner, the former Stanford University swimmer who sparked national outcry when he received an extremely lenient sentence for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman.
One bill, AB 2888, will put mandatory minimum sentences in place for certain sexual assault offenders, including those who are convicted of assaulting someone who is unconscious. The bill prevents the courts from granting probation to offenders who’ve been convicted of rape or sexual assault—like what happened in in Brock Turner’s case earlier this year.
Another bill, AB 701, will expand the legal definition of rape to include every form of nonconsensual sexual assault. (Under current law, rape is defined as “an act of sexual intercourse accomplished under specified circumstances indicating a lack of consent, force, or duress, as specified,” which excludes the many sexual violations that do not involve intercourse, as well as intercourse with a minor.)
Brock Turner was convicted of three felonies for sexually assaulting an intoxicated woman behind a dumpster in January 2015. Turner was sentenced to three years of probation and six months in county jail, despite the fact that prosecutors requested a six-year sentence. In August, he was released from jail after serving just half of his sentence is due to “good behavior” behind bars. The woman he assaulted, who has chosen to remain anonymous, permitted BuzzFeed News to publish the 12-page statement she delivered during Turner’s trial. The statement includes painful details about how Turner’s decision to violate her destroyed her life. Her powerful words paired with Turner’s lenient sentence sparked national outrage, and even led to the judge who sentenced Turner to be removed from an unrelated sexual assault trial.
On the whole, the state of California has aimed to move away from mandatory sentencing, but this bill was deemed worthy of an exception, as it intends to prevent a situation like Turner’s sentencing from happening again. “As a general matter, I am opposed to adding more mandatory minimum sentences,” Governor Brown explained in a statement. “Nevertheless, I am signing AB 2888, because I believe it brings a measure of parity to sentencing for criminal acts that are substantially similar.” Both bills will go into effect on January 1, 2017.