Attorney General Tim Fox Applauds Update to Sexual Assault Laws
Montana Attorney General Tim Fox issued the following statement Monday following the Governor signing into law last Thursday Senate Bill 29 (Diane Sands, D- Missoula), a bill revising the definition of consent in Montana for prosecution of sexual assault:
“The 2017 legislative session will go down in history as a turning-point for addressing sexual assault in Montana. The changes to Montana law included in Senate Bill 29 will fundamentally change how we prosecute sexual assault crimes in Montana, removing many of the barriers preventing prosecutors from convicting perpetrators of rape. All victims of sexual assault deserve justice, and I’m proud to have worked with Senator Sands and her colleagues in the legislature to ensure that, in Montana, ‘no’ means ‘no’.”
Attorney General Fox’s office worked with the Legislative Law and Justice Interim Committee to draft SB 29 during the interim, prior to the 2017 legislative session.
SB 29 Summary:
Modeled after the U.S. Uniform Code of Military Justice, SB 29 removes the requirement in current law that ‘force’ must be proven to convict someone of sexual assault. The changes Montana’s definition of consent to: “Consent means words or overt actions indicting a freely given agreement to have sexual intercourse or sexual contact.”
The bill also clarifies that the way a victim is dressed, or because of a previous relationship, do not in and of themselves mean that consent was given. The bill requires that law enforcement, courts and juries look at all of the surrounding circumstances, including expressions of lack of consent through words or conduct, in deciding whether there was a lack of consent. The bill also creates a new category of aggravated crime that enhances the penalties when a rape is accompanied by force.