Newly Proposed Law Would Change Sexual Assault Charges in North Carolina
According to the Carolina Public Press, less than 25 percent of defendants charged with sexual assault here in North Carolina are actually convicted. In fact, more than 30 percent of all North Carolina counties haven’t had a single conviction in over four years, and for a number of individuals accused of sexual assault, it can sometimes take a year or two before their case even makes it to court.
However, that could soon change: A new bill filed in the state legislature in Raleigh would change a number of sexual assault laws, crimes, and charges here in North Carolina, as we discuss below:
Statistics in North Carolina
According to the Press’ analysis of data from the Administrative Office of the Courts:
- In four and a half years, the total number of sexual assault convictions in North Carolina came to 247;
- 60 percent of these were due to please to a sexual assault charge;
- Close to 30 percent of all sexual assault convictions involved people pleading to a reduced charge (i.e. not sexual assault); and
- Jury trial convictions represented less than 10 percent of total convictions.
What Does the Proposed Bill Do?
Perhaps most noteworthy is the legislation’s attempt to change (i.e. expand) the definition of (and thus the ability to prosecute) a number of sexual assaults, such as:
- removing the word “forcible” from the definition of “rape” (meaning that additional activities could now fall under “rape,” regardless of whether force was used);
- expanding the definition of “caretaker” to include an adult dating or in a romantic relationship with a juvenile’s custodian, guardian, or parent (and, in doing so, allowing the state to get involved if one of these individuals abuses the child);
- acknowledging that intoxication can no longer serve as a defense to a criminal defendant accused of sex offenses;
- prohibiting the distribution of certain substances injurious to someone and making this a violation punishable as a Class C, F, H, or I felony; and
- adjusting the definition of “mentally incapacitated” so as to apply it to rape and other sex offenses (i.e. the term would include any victim rendered substantially incapable of appraising their conduct or resisting a sexual act due to an act committed against them). In other words, a victim can be considered mentally incapacitated; even if she voluntarily consumed alcohol.
Some also remark that the bill would allow prosecutors to more severely punish individuals involved in distributing date rape drugs, which North Carolina law does not currently clearly address. The bill would reportedly make it illegal to drug someone’s drink, regardless of whether sexual assault takes place.
If You’ve Been Accused of Sexual Assault, Contact Our North Carolina Defense Attorneys
At Dysart Willis, we know that sexual assault charges, when prosecuted, are serious, and that is only going to increase if this legislation passes. Contact our experienced North Carolina criminal defense attorneys today to find out about our aggressive legal defense services.