Oklahoma Just Delivered A Depressing Ruling On Alcohol And Rape

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It seems like everywhere you turn in the United States, a nonsensical law is being passed, but Oklahoma just issued a doozy of a court ruling that reinforces an archaic law already on the books. The end result ensures that rapists can get away with plenty of stuff if their victim is unconscious, especially after they’ve had a few drinks. As a result, prosecutors in a criminal court of appeals case were shut down in a disturbing case where a teen girl woke up with no memory and a boy’s DNA in her mouth.

Naturally, the ruling got tripped up in a web of nebulous statutes, but Oklahoma’s rape law does say that rape occurs “where the victim is at the time unconscious of the nature of the act and this fact is known to the accused.” However, the state’s forcible sodomy law does not provide the same protection for oral and anal sex. Because this provision was left out of this law, a 17-year-old boy who was charged with forcible oral sodomy of a 16-year-old intoxicated girl couldn’t be found guilty. This decision dropped even though there was DNA evidence and witnesses who testified that the girl was completely out of it. The boy, who claimed she consented to oral sex, dropped the girl off at her grandmother’s house. She was so intoxicated that grandma took her to the hospital where doctors uncovered evidence during a sexual assault exam. And still, this happened:

[T]he trial judge dismissed the case. And the appeals court ruling, on 24 March, affirmed that prosecutors could not apply the law to a victim who was incapacitated by alcohol.

“Forcible sodomy cannot occur where a victim is so intoxicated as to be completely unconscious at the time of the sexual act of oral copulation,” the decision read. Its reasoning, the court said, was that the statute listed several circumstances that constitute force, and yet was silent on incapacitation due to the victim drinking alcohol. “We will not, in order to justify prosecution of a person for an offense, enlarge a statute beyond the fair meaning of its language.”

Benjamin Fu, the Tulsa County district attorney leading the case, said the ruling had him “completely gobsmacked.”

Critics of this mess are calling the matter “archaic” and noting that the forcible sodomy law borders on victim blaming where alcohol is at play. Sadly, the appeals court technically had no room to maneuver when it came to the plain language of the applicable law. Expanding any criminal statute is dangerous. Yet it’s disturbing to realize that this girl could have seen justice if, say, the boy had chosen to simply rape her instead of going for another orifice. Oklahoma could take a cue and update this messed-up statute.

(Via The Guardian and Oklahoma State Courts Network)