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Prosecutors argued that a California woman was raped when a man impersonated her boyfriend and had sex with her as she slept.
But a California appeals court has ruled that an unmarried woman is not capable of being raped by trickery such as impersonation. The court explained these laws protect married women only.
Since the woman in this case was not married, the court reversed the man's rape conviction. But prosecutors will be able to try him again on a different legal theory.
The defendant, Julio Morales, acknowledges that he woke up the woman for sex and that the woman likely confused him for her boyfriend.
Morales and several other people were at the victim's home for a party. At some point in the night, the party wound down, the woman went to sleep, and the boyfriend eventually left the home.
Morales then entered the woman's bedroom, got into her bed, and proceeded to have sex with her by pretending to be her boyfriend, the court's opinion states. The woman says that as soon as she realized that Morales was not her boyfriend, she screamed and tried to push him away.
Prosecutors argued that Morales was guilty of rape under two legal theories. The first is that Morales had sex with the woman while she was unconscious. The second is that he had sex with the woman through trickery.
Under the trickery theory, the court noted that while sexual intercourse by impersonation may be a rape under California law, the law technically applies only when the victim is married and the perpetrator impersonates the victim's spouse.
So the court said that it had to "reluctantly" hold that a defendant impersonating someone other than the victim's spouse is technically not guilty of rape by trickery, "even though, if the woman had been married and the man had impersonated her husband," the outcome would have been different.
Still, the appeals court said it could not tell if jurors had convicted Julio Morales under the "incorrect" rape-by-trickery theory, or the alternate theory which the court held was "correct." The case was remanded for a retrial, so prosecutors can still argue that Morales raped an unconscious woman who was incapable of giving consent.