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California strengthens penalty for possession of date rape drugs

The New Year means a new set of laws take effect in California. One of the most significant developments in criminal law includes a new law that will create a felony charge for possession of date-rape drugs with the intent to commit sexual assault. The increased penalty comes just a year after California voters approved a ballot measure, Proposition 47, to reduce several drug crimes from a felony to a misdemeanor charge.

Before the passage of Proposition 47, possession of date-rape drugs could be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Instead of sticking with the ballot measure ruling to make possession a misdemeanor as part of the larger drug law reform, California lawmakers re-upped the penalty for possession of date rape drugs.

Statistics related to sexual assault

With nearly one in five women falling victim to date rape in their life, the measure takes a stand against sexual assault and sex crimes. Awareness of the law is important for men too. The use of alcohol and drugs remains pervasive in date-rape and sexual assault. 74 percent of men who admitted to rape said they used alcohol or drugs to commit it.

A national survey found that 1 in 12 college men committed rape, but 84 percent did not believe their actions were illegal. What some young men previously thought was harmless casual sex could now be a felony.

Possession of date-rape drugs such as Rohypnol, GHB, and ketamine is different than the possession of marijuana or cocaine. When someone possesses or uses marijuana, they are only harming themselves, in theory. Meanwhile, the possession or use of date-rape drugs hurts other people because they are administered without the knowledge of the victim and then used to commit sexual assault.

Consequences of the new law

The law's language to criminalize possession and not just the use of date-rape drugs allows police and prosecutors to potentially reduce instances of sexual assault by stopping perpetrators before the act occurs.

Because date-rape drugs such as GHB and ketamine are potent in small amounts and available via prescription, even an instance of otherwise legal possession could become a felony charge in California. Regardless of a conviction, the stigma of drug possession or sexual assault charges can carry lifelong consequences.

No matter the potential circumstances in which charges are brought, you need the representation of a criminal defense attorney who will ensure that you are given constitutional due process throughout the legal proceedings.

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