Oklahoma legislation aims to ensure punishment for sex crimes
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.
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.
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.
"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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