SANTA MARIA, CA - JANUARY 30: A view from the podium where lawyers will speak to prospective jury candidates in Courtroom #8, one day before jury selection begins for the Michael Jackson child molestation trial at the Superior Court of California courthouse on January 30, 2005 in Santa Maria, California. (Photo by Spencer Weiner-Pool/Getty Images)
The legal argument that a victim "consented" to a sexual act cannot be made by the defense, if that victim is younger that 14-years-old.
That was the ruling Thursday by the California Supreme Court involved a case out of Santa Clara County. (Read pdf here) The justices reversed a lower court's decision involving a case of a man who sexually assaulted his young cousin and her friend.
Jaime Vargas Soto was sentenced to 12 years in prison after being convicted on several counts after sexually fondling the two girls. Three of the counts were for forcible lewd acts and one count was for a nonforcible lewd act.
Soto's lawyer argued on appeal that since the law distinguished between forcible and nonforcible acts, he should have been allowed to argue that the girls consented and the acts were therefore nonviolent.
One of the victims was his 12-year-old cousin. The other was his cousin's 11-year-old friend.
Bay City News reported that the jury's finding found that three of the acts were forcible was based on the girls' testimony that Soto grabbed them and refused to release them when they asked him to stop fondling them and that they were frightened.
"For over 100 years, California law has consistently provided that children under the age of 14 cannot give valid legal consent to sexual acts with adults," Justice Carol Corrigan wrote in the public ruling.
Corrigan also noted when the legislature amended the state's child abuse law in 1981, it intentionally deleted a phrase requiring that a forcible act must be "against the will of the victim."
Corrigan wrote that the legislature "kept the focus on the conduct of the assailant."