Utah lawmakers passed a bill eliminating intoxication as a defense for rape.
HB139 will reverse current legislation that allows voluntary intoxication to be a defense for committing sexual crimes.
According to BYU law professor Stephanie Bair, voluntary intoxication is intentionally consuming legal or illegal drugs or alcohol with knowledge that they will impair judgment.
Rep. Keven Stratton, R-Orem, is the main sponsor of the bill. HB139 is a constituency bill, which means it was brought to a representative’s or senator’s attention by a public citizen with a concern.
In this case, a citizen who served on the jury for a rape case contacted Stratton.
The instruction for juries, per current legislation, is to find the defendant not guilty if they were determined to be intoxicated.
According to Stratton, the juror was disturbed by the details and clear evidence in the case incriminating the defendant.
Despite the juror’s better judgement, the defendant was found not guilty because he was under the influence of Ambien and unaware of his actions.
Stratton said HB139 provides course correction on current legislation to allow a jury to consider all aspects of a case and find a conclusion consistent with their consciences.
“I think it will help the victims have more confidence that appropriate remedies will be acknowledged (and avoid) inappropriately protecting the perpetrator,” Stratton said.
BYU student Kimberly Sager, 22, works on the rape crisis response team in BYU’s Women’s Services and Resource Center and said she thinks the bill is wonderful.
“We have a culture of victim blaming,” Sager said. “It (HB139) acknowledges that the perpetrator still has their agency and their actions are to be accountable for.”