SACRAMENTO, CA (CNN) -- A recent court case is shedding light on a legal loophole that protects some rapists who prey on unmarried women. It's happening in 2013 because of a law was written in 1872. Now, California lawmakers who have allowed the loophole to remain on the books are under fire.
What happened on a Sacramento street sounded like rape to police; Julio Morales slips into the bedroom of a sleeping 18-year-old woman. In a handwritten note to police, Morales writes, "she started to confuse me with her boyfriend."
The woman at first consents, but then resists when she realizes he's not her boyfriend. She tells police Morales raped her. But according to a California law dating back to 1872, what happened is not a crime.
An appellate decision, overturning Morales' conviction, spells out why, "Has the man committed rape? Because of historical anomalies in the law and the statutory definition of rape, the answer is no, even though, if the woman had been married and the man had impersonated her husband, the answer would be yes."
RAINN president Scott Berkowitz says, "My first reaction was you got to be kidding. We're prosecuting rape based on 140 year old laws that long ago stopped making sense."
The case may shock advocates, but not assemblyman Katcho Achadjian. He already had heard about the old 1872 law, from an upset prosecutor in his district. So in 2011, he introduced a bill in California's Assembly that would protect all women, whether married or single, against rape by impersonation. He says, "It was a no brainier. Everyone would support it wholeheartedly. No question about it."
He was right, sort of. The bill passed without a single no vote in the state assembly. But then it moved on to the Senate side to the Senate Public Safety Committee. The 7 members never took it to a vote.
Why? Because of a policy adopted in 2007 by the Senate's Democratic leadership. It's called ROCA or the receivership overcrowding crisis aggravation policy. This committee will not vote on public safety bills that could put more prisoners in California's already crowded prisons. Even something as seemingly simple as assemblyman Achadjian's bill.
What does it say to you about policies, about Sacramento, about lawmakers, when a no brainer bill can't get out of committee? Jann Taber, spokeswoman for California State Senator Joel Anderson says, "Unfortunately, red tape and bureaucracy exists. Sometimes overrides something that makes sense."
Critics believe the senate public safety committee misuses ROCA and members could have voted on this issue but chose not to.
But, according to a spokeswoman, the committee's republican vice chairman, Senator Joel Anderson, wants to get rid of ROCA so that all bills get voted on. He says, "There might have been a good excuse for the roca file in the past, but it's been abused. It's basically now being used as political cover so that members of the committee don't have to take tough votes."
Democrat Lori Hancock took time to try to explain that it's not as simple as it looks. She says, "No. We are walking that tightrope between a federal court order to reduce our prison population by 10's of 1000's of prisoners and a mandate not build new prisons either because we can't afford it."
Assemblyman Achsajian just this week reintroduced a new version of his bill hoping, that now because of public outrage; it will actually get voted on this time. He says, "When we're not able to protect woman's right in this 21st century, it's like, what's next."