Back in February 2009, an 18-year-old woman and her boyfriend hosted an afterparty for some friends. She fell asleep with her boyfriend. When the boyfriend left, Julio Morales slipped into her bed and raped her — until the woman realized Morales wasn’t her boyfriend and screamed. That conviction was overturned this week by a California appeals court because a quirk in state law holds that such circumstances constitute rape when the assailant is impersonating a husband, but not if the assailant is impersonating a boyfriend.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the appeals court reluctantly ruled in Morales’ favor as the judges had to rely on an 1872 statute that defines rape as sex “with a female not the wife of the perpetrator.” That law was amended a few years later to expand the definition of rape if the victim was “under the belief that the person committing the act is her husband.”
In the text of their ruling, the appellate judges implored State lawmakers to “correct the incongruity that exists when a man may commit rape… when impersonating a husband, but not when impersonating a boyfriend.”
Prosecutors have yet to determine whether to challenge the appellate ruling up to California’s Supreme Court or retry Morales for rape. Califonia statutes say that sex with a sleeping person is considered rape — and Morales allegedly told detectives the woman he had sex with might have been asleep — and probably believed he was her boyfriend at the start of the intercourse.
Until the legislature acts, accused rapists like Julio Morales might well be protected by what the Appeals court deemed “historical anomalies in the law.”