Does Drug or Alcohol Consumption Affect California Sexual Assault Claims?

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Can I File a Sexual Assault Claim if I Was Drinking or Taking Drugs?

Can I File a Sexual Assault Claim if I Was Drinking or Taking Drugs?

Feb 15, 2022

A recent USA Today report highlights disconcerting laws in 27 states which distinguish between sexual assault survivors who were forced or coerced to become intoxicated and those who voluntarily chose to consume alcohol or drugs. Considered “voluntary inebriation,” more than half of the states in the U.S. reportedly have criminal laws that make it more difficult to prosecute sexual assault crimes if a survivor had been drinking or consuming drugs at the time of an incident.

Specifically, the USA Today article cited a 2021 ruling by the Minnesota Supreme Court which overturned a rape conviction because the victim had “willingly consumed alcohol,” according to a post from At the time, for a Minnesota sexual assault to meet the standard for a criminal felony conviction, alcohol had to be given to a victim without her or his consent. The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that a perpetrator can’t be found guilty of a criminal sexual assault charge if a survivor became intoxicated by voluntarily ingesting drugs or alcohol, according to USA Today.

Although Minnesota legislators passed a revised law in September 2021 removing the intoxication clause, the overturned rape conviction has brought to the fore the fact that so many states continue to apply such antiquated laws in sexual assault criminal cases.

But do California laws differentiate between voluntary and involuntary drug or alcohol consumption in civil cases?

Below we will review how California law impacts sexual assault civil claims where survivors voluntarily consumed drugs or alcohol. We’ll also look at what damages may be recovered through a sexual assault or abuse civil claim and discuss how to file a lawsuit seeking to recover financial compensation.

What is a Sexual Assault Civil Lawsuit?

In California, a sexual assault survivor may file a civil lawsuit seeking to recover financial compensation for various losses suffered as a result of a sex crime. California sexual assault civil claims may be brought regardless of whether or not any criminal charges are filed by the District Attorney’s Office. Moreover, a sexual assault criminal case does not have a direct impact on a survivor’s civil claim – even if a criminal case is unsuccessful, a civil suit may lead to a damages award via a settlement or verdict.

Can I File a Lawsuit if I Was Sexually Assaulted While Drinking or Taking Drugs Voluntarily?

California law mandates that affirmative consent is always given prior to and ongoing throughout sexual activity. Consent cannot be given by anyone “incapacitated” by drugs or alcohol – regardless of whether such psychoactive substances are consumed voluntarily or involuntarily. Accordingly, a sexual assault civil claim may be filed by a survivor under the influence of drugs or alcohol who is harmed by a perpetrator.

Dordulian Law Group (DLG) has been representing survivors of sexual assault and abuse for decades, fighting to obtain justice and recover maximum financial damages awards for our clients. Some recent DLG sexual assault cases involving drugs or alcohol highlight the rights of survivors harmed by predators.

DLG’s Recent Sexual Assault Victories Involving Drugs or Alcohol

Multi-Million Dollar Settlement for Rideshare Rape Survivor Drugged by Driver:

In a recent case involving a survivor who was raped after consuming a bottle of water that had been drugged by her rideshare driver, DLG secured a multi-million dollar settlement against the rideshare company. Our client did not consent to any sexual activity with the rideshare driver, and we were able to bring a successful claim as a result.

Multi-Million Dollar Settlement for Survivor Drugged by Man Met on ‘Sugar Daddy’ Website:

In a recent case involving a survivor who was drugged and raped on a single occasion by a man she had met on a ‘Sugar Daddy’ dating website, DLG secured an undisclosed multi-million settlement against the perpetrator. Despite the fact that the two individuals had a consenting sexual relationship in the past, the single instance of sexual assault without consent due to the survivor being drugged and unconscious allowed us to bring a successful claim.

How Long Do Survivors Have to File California Sexual Assault Claims?

As of 2019, California Assembly Bill 1619 (AB 1619) stipulates that the statute of limitations for a sexual assault civil claim is 10 years from the date of an incident. Adult sexual assault and abuse survivors have 10 years from the date of an incident to file civil claims seeking to recover financial compensation.

Additionally, if discovery of an injury due to a sexual assault occurs, adult survivors have three years from the date of said discovery to file civil claims. An example of a common sexual assault injury discovery is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

What Damages May be Recovered in a Sexual Assault Civil Claim?

Sexual assault civil claims are filed in an effort to recover financial compensation for survivors. Some common damages that may be secured through a California sexual assault civil claim include:

  • Counseling or therapy expenses
  • Emotional trauma
  • Psychological distress
  • Lost wages
  • Lost earning capacity
  • Diminished quality of life
  • Pain and suffering
  • Hospital or medical expenses

The specific facts of a sex crime will often determine which damages may be pursued in a civil claim on behalf of a survivor.

Important 2022 California Sexual Assault Information

The State of California’s Megan’s Law website highlights some important myths and facts regarding sexual assault.

Are survivors of sexual assault harmed only when offenders use force?

No – that is false. However, as DLG’s founder and former sex crimes prosecutor, Sam Dordulian, has noted in past blogs, sexual assault survivors are often under the incorrect perception that a civil claim may only be filed if some sort of force is wielded by a perpetrator.

It’s so unfortunate that survivors are overwhelmingly of the belief that rape has to be a major attack with a perpetrator using force, or even a weapon of some kind, in order to qualify for a civil suit,” Dordulian says.

Moreover, as Dordulian notes, consent on one occasion does not give someone license to automatically engage in sexual activity in the future.

I see a lot of rape survivors who believe that once they begin having a consensual sexual relationship with someone, they’re suddenly no longer capable of being ‘raped’ under the law. It’s as if that earlier consent they had given somehow lasts forever in terms of legality. But consent is mandatory every single time, and there are no exceptions to that rule.

Do drugs and alcohol cause sexual assaults to occur?

No – that is also false. As the California Megan’s Law website notes, while drugs and alcohol are often involved in sexual assaults, such substances do not cause sexual offenses to occur. Rather, drug and alcohol use may make an offender less inhibited, while being under the influence may increase a potential victim’s vulnerability.

If a victim does not say “no” or “fight back,” is it still sexual assault?

Yes – that it is still considered sexual assault. Sexual assault victims may not explicitly say “no” or may not fight back for a variety of reasons, including fear and confusion, according to the Megan’s Law website. Rape victims often report being “frozen” by fear during the assault, making them unable to fight back (this is known as “tonic immobility”). Moreover, other victims may not actively resist for fear of angering the assailant and causing him to use more force in the assault. Pressure to be liked and not be talked about negatively by a peer will sometimes cause adolescents or children to avoid fighting back or actively resisting.

Our Sexual Assault Justice Experts are here to help survivors secure justice. Contact our top-rated attorneys online or by phone for a free consultation today.

How to File a California Sexual Assault Civil Claim

To speak with an experienced and trusted DLG sexual assault lawyer for a free, confidential, and no obligation consultation, contact us directly at 818-322-4056. DLG’s sex crime lawyers will fight to obtain the justice you deserve. With more than 25 years of experience helping injured victims recover over $100,000,000 in settlements and verdicts, DLG’s team is dedicated to working tirelessly to develop a wining legal strategy for you that seeks to recover a maximum financial damages award for your sexual assault civil claim.

DLG’s unique SAJE Team (Sexual Assault Justice experts) offers survivors access to a four-tiered team of dedicated professionals that is here to help you through the litigation process. Contact us today to answer any questions regarding your sexual assault claim.

Some additional examples of our recent sexual assault civil case victories include:

DLG was founded by former sex crimes prosecutor and Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County, Sam Dordulian. Dordulian has helped sexual assault survivors obtain justice in both civil and criminal trials, with more than 25 years of experience and proven results.

Go See Sam