Victims of sex crimes who were voluntarily under the influence at the time of their assault rarely see justice. One lawmaker is hoping to change this.
Senator Alessandra Biaggi introduced a bill in 2019 aiming to close the voluntary intoxication loophole and it passed the Senate this week. Biaggi told the Bronx Times that research has shown that alcohol and or drugs are involved in more than half of the reported assaults nationwide.
Many lawyers do not view these cases as winnable because of a legal loophole. Under NYS law “Mentally incapacitated” means that a person is rendered temporarily incapable of appraising or controlling his conduct owing to the influence of a narcotic or intoxicating substance administered to him without his consent, or to any other act committed upon him without his consent. However, this does not include when an individual consumes an intoxicating substance voluntarily.
“The reality is we need to hold the perpetrators accountable,” Biaggi said. “All New Yorkers should be protected, whether they were involuntarily intoxicated or not.”
The senator stressed that reporting a rape is difficult, but to then be told their cases isn’t winnable because they were voluntarily drunk is disheartening.
Laws like this are outdated and must change, she stated.
Biaggi noted that in 2011 two NYPD cops drove a drunk woman home and then came back and raped her. They were acquitted because of the loophole.
“It’s a roadblock for every prosecutor to try to punish an assailant,” Biaggi said. “The fact that we are in this position is unacceptable. Lawyers want this loophole closed because they know it’s dangerous.”
As the legislative session for congress wraps up this week, Biaggi is hoping her counterpart and co-sponsor of the bill in the Assembly Jeffrey Dinowitz gets the legislation passed.
“Right now it seems like nothing is moving in the Assembly,” Biaggi explained. “This is a no-brainer and there is no excuse.”
Dinowitz agrees with Biaggi and wants the loophole closed as well. He noted there has been some pushback from people who say this could make people guilty till they are proven innocent.
Right now it is in the Codes Committee, but he hopefully things move this week.
“The bottom line is being drunk should not be an invitation to rape somebody,” he commented.