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Reforming Criminal Law in California

The given essay will primarily focus on redefining the content-related aspect of rape laws. Some states, such as California, implemented the consent withdrawal concept, which allows a person to dismiss his or her previous consent. Therefore, before the change, if an individual gives permission, he or she no longer can withdraw it even if he or she no longer wishes to be involved in the act. In other words, such a case was not defined as rape because the consent was provided in the beginning. Thus, the law achieved its primary goal, but it needs to add terminology-based changes.

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The need for such a reform was caused by the prevalence of rape incidents, where victims were lured into sexual intercourse through consent provision, but no longer wanted to continue. For example, in Kenya, the lack of post-penetration protection in the form of rape laws gives too much power to men (Odundo, 2016). Therefore, the change allowed a person to withdraw consent during intercourse, which requires the other individual to stop (California’s rape laws, 2020). According to California code: “where it is accomplished against a person’s will by means of force, violence, duress, menace, or fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury on the person or another” (California code, penal code, 2020, para. 2). In other words, the reform allowed to properly define the instance of rape.

The change in definition and addition of the consent withdrawal achieved its goal of reducing the rate of rapes. The reform was introduced in 2003, which stated: “Consent, as defined in subdivision (a), may be withdrawn at any point before or during the sexual contact by communicating that withdrawal. Withdrawal of consent terminates any earlier consent” (Assembly bill no. 814, 2003, para. 6). Despite the growing population of the state, the forcible rape instances from 2002 to 2003 dropped significantly (California crime rates, 2018). In other words, the change reached its objective, and the values do not fully reflect the effect. The main reason is that under the new definition, more rapes will be recognized. Therefore, taking into account the population increase and expansion of rape, the drop means that it was highly effective.

The unintended consequences of the law were manifested in defining the term “seriousness” of the request. The sexual intercourse might involve highly confusing language, where a reasonable individual might or might not recognize the withdrawal. Key policy issues always require constant supervision in order to adapt them to current realities (Siegel & Worrall, 2017). There is no need for further amending the law because setting explicit terms for withdrawal can be a violation of an individual private and intimate life.

The recommendation revolves around terminological use, where the law utilizes conflicting terms. For example, California law states: “the defendant forcibly continued the act of intercourse despite any objection. Also note that it is not required that a person: physically resist or fight back in order to communicate a lack of consent” (Penal code 261 PC, 2020, para. 14). The word “forcibly” means that physical resistance is applied, but it is not mandatory for withdrawing consent. Therefore, the given line should remove the term “forcibly” in order to make it precise that consent can be withdrawn without physical resistance. It would remove confusion of interlinking fighting and consent provision.

In conclusion, the change in the definition of rape is highly critical to integrate consent withdrawal. The lack of such a feature will allow some individuals to get away with forced sex after tricking the victims into providing consent in the beginning. Although the current version of the law achieved its objective, some terminological modifications can be integrated in order to remove confusion and conflicting lines.


Assembly bill no. 814. (2003). Web.

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California code, penal code – PEN § 261. (2020). Web.

California crime rates 1960 – 2018. (2018). Web.

California’s rape laws – What you need to know. (2020). Web.

Odundo, C. (2016). Post-penetration withdrawal of consent: Expanding the definition of rape in Kenya within a hegemonic masculinity discourse. SSRN, 1, 1-14.

Penal code 261 PC – California rape laws. (2020). Web.

Siegel, L. J., & Worrall, J. L. (2017). Introduction to criminal justice. Cengage Learning.

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"Reforming Criminal Law in California." StudyCorgi, 3 Jan. 2022,

1. StudyCorgi. "Reforming Criminal Law in California." January 3, 2022.


StudyCorgi. "Reforming Criminal Law in California." January 3, 2022.


StudyCorgi. 2022. "Reforming Criminal Law in California." January 3, 2022.


StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Reforming Criminal Law in California'. 3 January.

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