California Consent Defense to Rape

By Darren Chaker – In a California rape trial, where defense of consent is made, Darren Chaker goes over the court ruling. In a jury trial for attempted rape, when there is substantial evidence of victim’s equivocal conduct that would have led defendant to reasonably and in good faith to believe consent existed when it did not, it is error not to instruct on mistake belief of consent.


Darren Chaker looks at appeal
Darren Chaker reviews California appellate case concerning rape.

Where the defense of consent as a defense to rape in California, Appellant and the victim met each other at a bar. The two struck up a conversation and appellant bought her a beer. Over the evening, they remained with each other, becoming somewhat amorous and continuing to drink. Appellant then accompanied her home. At this point, appellant’s and the victim’s accounts of the following events differed, with appellant testifying that the two engaged in mutual foreplay while the victim testified that when she came out of the bathroom, appellant forced himself on her although she objected.


Darren Chaker notes that evidence was also presented that at the time of the claimed assault, the victim’s blood alcohol level, based on the amount of alcohol she reportedly consumed, would have been approximately .20%. The court failed to instruct on good faith but mistaken belief in consent. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on some of the charged sex offenses, acquitted appellant of attempted sexual penetration by force, but convicted him of attempted rape by force.


The appellate court rejected the Attorney General’s contention that because victim and appellant gave contradictory versions of the incident, and because appellant stopped his advances when she rejected him, appellant was not entitled to a mistaken consent instruction. “A requested instruction regarding mistake of fact [is] required when some evidence deserving of . . . consideration exist[s] to support that contention.” (People v. Mayberry (1975) 15 Cal.3d 143, 157.) The court continued to state:


“The court refused to give requested instructions that directed the jury to acquit Franklin of the rape and kidnaping if the jury had a reasonable doubt as to whether Franklin reasonably and genuinely believed that Miss B. freely consented to her movement from the grocery store to his apartment and to sexual intercourse with him. Franklin contends that the court thereby erred. The Attorney General argues that the court properly refused to give the instructions because “mistake of fact instruction[s] as to consent should be rejected as against the law and public policy.””


Here, the evidence was such that the jury should have been instructed on appellant’s good faith but mistaken belief in consent. The error was prejudicial because if the jury found that appellant had a reasonable belief that the victim consented, he lacked the specific intent for rape.