The House of Representatives Tuesday unanimously passed a bill that would make it easier to prosecute those who sexually assault people with severe physical and developmental disabilities.
Supporters of House Bill 6641 say it would close “a legal loophole” in the state’s sexual assault statutes by clarifying the legal definition of “physically helpless.”
“This bill will go a long way towards helping prosecutors in dealing with these cases that involve victims who are physically or developmentally disabled,” Rep. Gerald Fox, co-chairman of the legislature’s judiciary committee.
The bill now goes to the state Senate for consideration.
The measure comes in response to a 2012 state Supreme Court decision. The court threw out the conviction against Richard Fourtin, a Bridgeport man found guilty of attempted sexual assault and 4th-degree sexual assault of a severely disabled woman. The woman disabilities include “cerebral palsy, mental retardation and hydrocephalus. She cannot walk and needs assistance in performing the activities of daily living,” according to the court.
But the court concluded that victims with severe physical disabilities such as the ones described above cannot receive special protection under current law unless their disability leaves them “unconscious or in a state akin to unconsciousness.”