Court Throws Out Rape Case Because Victim Is Unmarried

A Los Angeles-based state appeals court just overturned a rape conviction because a woman who was raped in her sleep by a man impersonating her boyfriend is unmarried. The victim, who at first thought the man was her boyfriend, tried to stop him once she regained consciousness enough to realize he was an imposter. However, because the woman and her boyfriend are not a married couple, her rapist will walk away without penalty: The court said that its decision is based on a California law stating that tricking a victim into sex by impersonation only counts as rape if the victim is married. The three-judge panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeals wrote:

A man enters the dark bedroom of an unmarried woman after seeing her boyfriend leave late at night, and has sexual intercourse with the woman while pretending to be the boyfriend. Has the man committed rape? Because of historical anomalies in the law and the statutory definition of rape, the answer is no, even though, if the woman had been married and the man had impersonated her husband, the answer would be yes.

This ruling means that in California, rapists who attack unmarried men or women by impersonating their significant others are protected under state law. This horrifying concept is made even more infuriating when you consider how this affects gay men and women in the state, who are not allowed to marry.

The justices explained that prosecutors in this particular case employed two legal theories, the first being that the man tricked the woman into having sex with him (which only applies to married women), and the other arguing that under state law, sex with an unconscious person is always defined as rape. The court recommends the prosecutors utilize the latter theory if the case is retried.

Regardless of how the case is tried later, the fact that this man committed rape and is free to do so again because of a legal loophole is unacceptable. This disturbing series of events exemplifies yet again the serious lack of protection and justice this country provides to rape victims.

Photo via Flickr user DonkeyHotey licensed under Creative Commons 2.o.


  1. Why was this antiquated law never updated?

  2. How can it be possible that a woman’s right to justice is determined by her marital status? Yet again, single women are penalised for daring to be single.

    • Because the crime of rape for centuries was viewed as a wrong toward the MAN whose “property” — meaning his wife or daughter — was damaged in the process.

  3. Perfect. Rulings like this underline the patriarchal structure of our nation at every level. Resist. Stand up. Change the law. Lobby. Don’t stop, dear friends of justice and equality.

    • Rulings like this apply an unfortunate law to the facts. Don’t be mad at the ruling, be made at the Legislature that never updated the law

  4. Iliana Echo says:

    While I agree this is horrible, I think it’s fair to say the judges are not at fault. Do we really want judges making decisions outside the confines of the law based on their own views of morality? The blame rests with those who failed to update this law.

  5. Someone needs to start a petition and make certain the California courts get the message that their ruling in favor of the FILTHY rapist is WRONG and will NOT be tolerated! It’s time to protest this grave miscarriage of justice NOW!

  6. ah unmarried and he posed as his brother, rape is still rape no matter what, if someone poses as a brother, or even a sister and has unwarranted sex with someone, thats rape, and if a woman or man says NO thats rape too

  7. Ironically, the article is intentionally misleading. The article in the L.A. Time cited by this article is, however, not. Neither is Debra Cassens Weiss’s, “California Appeals Court Rules Sex by Impersonation Is Not Rape When the Woman Is Unmarried” (American Bar Association).

    The court ruled that the defendant must be retried for rape of an unconscious person. (Google document search for California appellate case B233796).

    The ruling does not mean that rapists who attack unmarried women are protected under state law. The ruling means that misleading another person into consensual sex is not considered rape. Thankfully, a legislator has already pledged to change the law–Morgause-Arthur, Elaine-Lancelot, and Lewis Skolnick-Betty Childs are all awful.

    The misinformation in this article may encourage rapists and propagate fear in the vulnerable.

  8. Completely misleading headline. They DID NOT throw out the case, it’s being retried.

    And remember, tricking / lying to people in general is completely legal. Only in certain cases will it get you in legal trouble, things classified as fraud etc.

  9. Unbelievable! I’m not a believer in vigilante justice, but as a divorced woman whose ex-husband then died, I can guarantee you anyone slipping into my bed uninvited is going to be greeted with a huge dose of trouble. I won’t wait for the outdated legal system to mete out justice.

  10. Jonathan Solorio says:

    No, this is just blatantly wrong and he HURT her, she is alleging HARM and that fucking guy should be tried and judged accordingly! This is fucked up. You cannot deceive someone and be like “I got away with it, she was deceived SO IT’S OKAY!” – no that’s fucking WRONG

  11. Azucena Langlet Hanigan says:

    This wrong needs to be righted immediately. Such a bad interpretation cannot stand in this wonderful Country.

    Suzy Hanigan

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