Under current New York law, an individual who is sexually assaulted after willingly partaking of alcohol would not be considered a victim of a crime, according to Manhattan’s top prosecutor.
The law requires that a victim be involuntarily “mentally incapacitated” in order for consent to be void and an assaulter to be charged.
District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. sent a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo requesting a change to the law, The Washington Post reported, writing: “But there is no difference between an intoxicated individual’s ability to consent to sexual acts when he or she was drugged, and an intoxicated individual’s ability to consent when he or she voluntarily drank alcohol or took narcotics.”
Vance argued in the letter, which urged the governor to push for legislation that would alter the law’s language, that if a reasonable person should have realized the victim was intoxicated, then the assailant is fair game for prosecution.
The Post reported that many states are in the same boat as New York, with laws on the books that “only explicitly say that drunkenness implies a lack of consent if the intoxication was involuntary.”
Though the existence of Vance’s letter was reported just this week, initially by NBC News, the district attorney delivered his concerns to Cuomo in April 2018. He has yet to receive a response on the matter from the governor’s office.
Rich Azzopardi, a senior adviser to Cuomo, told The Post that he had no record of receiving the letter and did not respond to all of the newspaper’s questions on the issue.
The governor’s office “will continue to do everything we can to protect victims, bring abusers (to) justice and build upon the work we’ve done, which includes enacting the Child Victims Act, extending the statute of limitations for second- and third-degree rape, and putting into place the strongest protections in the nation to combat sexual assault on college campuses and sexual harassment in the workplace,” Azzopardi told The Post in a statement.