OKLAHOMA – Lawmakers are working to change sex crimes laws in Oklahoma after a case made headlines around the world.
You may remember, it involves a teen who said she was forced to perform oral sex while she was passed out.
The court said, because she was unconscious, no law was broken.
Now, lawmakers are scrambling to close the loophole so that never happens again.
The new bill will clarify the current language in the law about the word “force,” and it’ll add protections for victims who are unconscious.
Now, in the last few weeks of session, the bill is headed to the House floor.
Tulsa County prosecutors were shocked by the controversial ruling.
A 17-year-old boy was accused of forcing a heavily intoxicated girl to perform oral sex on him.
He said she consented, but she said she didn’t remember anything.
A judge dismissed the case, saying, under current law, that wasn’t a crime, because the victim was so intoxicated she was unconscious.
An appeals court agreed.
“When you talk to prosecutors out there, talk to courts, everybody’s throwing their hands up now, pointing to this unpublished opinion that didn’t follow case law,” said Rep. Scott Biggs.
Biggs’ bill would tighten the language in the law, so the forcible oral sodomy statute will mirror Oklahoma’s rape law, which does address unconscious or intoxicated victims.
“We now have gone back and actually line-itemed out that, if someone is incoherent or they’re not aware, that it’s going to be considered rape,” said Rep. John Paul Jordan.
Legal experts said the word “force” was also part of the issue.
It’s one of the elements of the forcible oral sodomy charge prosecutors have to prove, so lawmakers are now adding a definition of force in the law.
“Force can be anything from what most people think of someone manhandling or actually grabbing or what not. At the same time, it could be subtle force. Think about a date rape drug,” Jordan said.
There’s also an emergency clause in the bill, which means, if it passes, the new law would go into effect immediately after the governor signs it.
“What happened to this victim can’t happen again,” Biggs said.
The bill also addresses jury instructions, so, if it passes, the Court of Criminal Appeals will have to write jury instructions for the new law within ten days of the governor’s signature.