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Court: It's Not Rape If You're Pretending To Be Your Victim's Boyfriend

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A state appeals court has reluctantly overturned the rape conviction of a Southern California man who admitted to pretending to be his victim's boyfriend. The court said that the law only would have considered the woman a victim under these circumstances only if she had been married.

Julio Morales was charged in 2009 with sexually assaulting an 18-year-old woman after a party in Cerritos. The woman discussed having sex that night with her boyfriend but they ultimately decided not to. He went home, and she fell asleep.

She was awoken that night by Morales. The woman told police that she woke up only once Morales was attempting intercourse. Morales testified that he woke her up by kissing her on the cheek first. He admits that she probably assumed he was her boyfriend. When a light shone into the room and she noticed it was not her boyfriend, the woman pushed him away. She says that he continued assaulting her even as she pushed him away. Morales says he left on his own and doesn't remember being pushed away.

Prosecutors thought that in this case they had two ways to convict him of rape: to prove that she was tricked into having sex with him or that she could not consent because she was sleeping. Morales' first trial ended in a hung jury, but he was convicted of the "rape of an unconscious person" the second time. The jury who convicted Morales was told that he could be convicted of rape under either theory, but the court says only one of those theories works in California.

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The Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles stepped in "reluctantly," because it said that state law actually does not protect victims from assailants posing as a boyfriend or lover, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The legislature amended the state's spousal rape law in 1993 to cover cases where the victim was coerced or tricked into giving consent, but the appeals court says the law is very narrow and would only protect a married victim in a situation like this. The court ruled it wasn't sure whether the jury convicted Morales in part because he pretended to be the victim's boyfriend.

"We reluctantly hold that a person who accomplishes sexual intercourse by impersonating someone other than a married victim's spouse is not guilty of the crime of rape of an unconscious person," wrote Justice Thomas Willhite in the 3-0 ruling.

Morales has already served his three year sentenced, but he is entitled to a new trial. The ruling also urged legislators to change the law. You can read the full opinion here.

Related:
California Legislators Reconsider 'Arcane' Law That Discriminates Against Unmarried Rape Victims