Oklahoma legislation aims to ensure punishment for sex crimes

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Oklahoma Ruling Blames Victims Of Sodomy

OKLAHOMA CITY, April 29 (Reuters) - Oklahoma lawmakers will take up legislation next week aimed at ensuring sex crimes do not go unpunished in the state because the victims were unconscious or intoxicated when they occurred.

In March, Oklahoma's highest criminal court ruled the state's rape law addresses sexual assault cases involving people who were either unconscious or intoxicated when they were victims of abuse.

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But the court ruled that Oklahoma's forcible sodomy law, which also pertains to oral sex, did not address such cases.

The ruling was in response to allegations that a Tulsa teenager sexually assaulted a girl who had passed out after a night of drinking. A lower court judge had dismissed the case last year.

Oklahoma Representative Scott Biggs, a Republican, said on Friday he is filing legislation to define forcible sodomy in a way that includes unconscious victims. The bill, which is widely supported, is expected to be heard by the Oklahoma legislature in the coming week, Biggs said.

"The judges made a grave error, but if they need more clarification, we are happy to give it to them by fixing the statute," Biggs said in an interview.

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The state's highest criminal appeals court said in its ruling: "Sodomy cannot occur where a victim is so intoxicated as to be completely unconscious at the time of the sexual act of oral copulation."

It added, "we will not, in order to justify prosecution of a person for an offense, enlarge a statute beyond the fair meaning of its language."

The ruling in March had gone mostly unnoticed until the public interest journalism site Oklahoma Watch reported on it this month, sparking a public outcry.

The case from 2014 involved two high school students who were drinking and smoking marijuana with friends. The boy testified the oral sex was consensual but the girl said it was not, according to Oklahoma Watch, which added that the teen's DNA was found on the girl.

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"Unfortunately, legal minds often get stuck on questions of semantics, when it is clear to most of us what the intent of the law is," Biggs said.

"I can't stress enough how sorry I am for the victim and that she was denied justice," he added.

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Oklahoma legislation aims to ensure punishment for sex crimes
A sexual assault evidence kit is logged in the biology lab at the Houston Forensic Science Center in Houston on Thursday, April 2, 2015. The new attention to sexual assault kits stems from a combination of factors: the persistence of advocacy groups, investigative media reports, the willingness of rape survivors to speak out and political support from statehouses up to the White House. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
Instructions sit next to pipettes at a station in the biology lab at the Houston Forensic Science Center in Houston on Thursday, April 2, 2015. Before DNA, rape kits could be tested for blood group typing, but that was nowhere as definitive and the evidence could broadly exclude or include a suspect _ if one had been identified. DNA proved to be a turning point, but Houston Assistant Police Chief Mary Lentschke notes that police still faced two big obstacles: a shortage of both money and crime lab staff. It has cost $500 to $1,500 to test and analyze each kit. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
Forensic analyst India Henry examines cotton swabs from a sexual assault evidence kit in the biology lab at the Houston Forensic Science Center in Houston on Thursday, April 2, 2015. A dramatic shift is taking hold across the country as police and prosecutors scramble to process these kits and use DNA matches to track down sexual predators, many of whom attacked more women while evidence of their crimes languished in storage. Lawmakers, meanwhile, are proposing reforms to ensure this doesn't happen again. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy speaks during an interview about rape kits in Detroit on Monday, April 20, 2015. On the the backlog of rape kit testing, she says, "It shows that we, as this country, do not respect rape victims to the extent that we respect other victims." (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy looks at documents in Detroit on Monday, April 20, 2015. Her office is working with the Michigan Women's Foundation and the Detroit Crime Commission to raise money to complete the backlog of rape kit testing and investigation and bring suspects to trial. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Vials of evidence in a sexual assault case are labeled and sorted in the biology lab at the Houston Forensic Science Center in Houston on Thursday, April 2, 2015. In some cases, it's simply too late for justice because statutes of limitations have expired. In others, investigators may have to wade through old, often incomplete, police files, search for witnesses and suspects, confront fading memories and persuade survivors to reopen painful chapters of their lives. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
Forensic analyst Karen Gincoo checks a tray of evidence vials from rape kits in the biology lab at the Houston Forensic Science Center in Houston on Thursday, April 2, 2015. In Houston, authorities recently cleared a backlog of nearly 6,700 kits that included cases dating back to the 1980s. The project, which cost about $6 million, turned up 850 matches in a national DNA database. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
This Thursday, April 2, 2015 photo shows an evidence bag from a sexual assault case in the biology lab at the Houston Forensic Science Center in Houston. Legislators in more than 20 states are considering _ and in some cases, passing _ laws that include auditing all kits and deadlines for submitting and processing DNA evidence. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
Vials of evidence from rape kits are labeled and sorted for testing in the biology lab at the Houston Forensic Science Center in Houston on Thursday, April 2, 2015. In resurrecting old crimes, investigators have detected an alarming pattern: Many rapists are repeat offenders. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
ADVANCE FOR USE SUNDAY, MAY 31, 2014 AND THEREAFTER - A small piece of cotton from a swab in a sexual assault evidence kit is placed into a vial for testing in the biology lab at the Houston Forensic Science Center in Houston on Thursday, April 2, 2015. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
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