By JIM MUSTIAN
Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed new legislation Tuesday that would close a loophole in New York law that often prevents prosecutors from bringing rape charges when victims become drunk of their own volition.
The governor wants to amend the state’s definition of who cannot legally consent to sexual activity. That currently does not include someone who remains conscious — but is too drunk to consent — after becoming voluntarily intoxicated.
“While New York has some of the most aggressive laws in the nation when it comes to combating this insidious disease, a loophole in current law allows rapists to walk free and vacate their heinous crimes based on a legal technicality,” Cuomo said in a statement to The Associated Press. “Our laws must protect the people of this state — not condone rape as a punishment for consuming alcohol.”
New York law currently says someone who becomes drunk voluntarily is not deemed “mentally incapacitated” when it comes to giving consent. The statue does cover victims who become unconscious or are administered drugs or alcohol without their consent.
District attorneys have said the current law allows defendants to claim sexual activity was consensual even when a victim was too impaired to know what was happening.
“Victims of sexual assault should not be barred from obtaining justice because he or she voluntarily consumed drugs or alcohol,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. wrote in a letter to Cuomo last year.
A bill introduced this year in the New York State Senate would expand the state’s definition of “mentally incapacitated” to allow charges to be brought if a “reasonable person” should have known a victim was too impaired to consent due to voluntary intoxication.
The governor intends to introduce a separate but similar piece of legislation next year.
“The pervasive culture of sexual assault and abuse has gone on for too long in this country,” Cuomo said.