JEFFERSON CITY - Drugging someone and then having sex would be classified as rape under a bill passed by the Missouri House of Representatives.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Vicky Wilson, D-Columbia, would expand the definition of rape to include giving people controlled substances without their consent and then having sexual intercourse with them.
Presently a charge of rape requires "forcible compulsion," defined in part as "physical force that overcomes reasonable resistance."
"Certainly, using a substance that renders someone totally physically incapacitated is equivalent to using physical force," Wilson said.
Two representatives questioned whether alcohol would fall under the act. Rep. Tim Harlan, D-Columbia, responded alcohol is not a controlled substance and therefore would not.
Wilson said the intent of the bill is to strengthen the penalty for using so-called "date-rape drugs," like Rohypnol, that can be slipped into drinks, making people temporarily black out.
The idea for the bill came from a college student who interns in the capitol, Wilson said, and other students from MU and Stephens College have expressed concern to her that under current law, drugging someone and having sex with him or her is just sexual assault. That felony carries a maximum prison time of seven years, while someone convicted of rape faces five years to life in prison.
"If you do something without someone else's knowledge that renders them totally incapacitated and then you rape them, that is the lowest form of behavior and deserves to be prosecuted fully," Wilson said Thursday after the bill passed 128-0. "Obviously laws don't change behavior, but we are giving people another tool to prosecute this very serious offense."
Danny Trujillo, education coordinator at the MU Wellness Resource Center, testified for the bill when it went through committee.
"We've had to deal with students who have victimized by these substances," he said Thursday.
Describing sexual assaults involving drugs as a real, growing problem in Columbia, Trujillo said the bill could make a substantial difference by sending a clear message about the wrongness of the act.
"This gives us, from the prevention side, a valuable tool in talking and educating people about this," he said.
The wellness center has been implementing prevention programs to focus awareness on the issue. When used in sexual assaults, illegal drugs like Rohypnol are usually slipped into someone's alcoholic drink, he said, making the victim unaware of being drugged.
"Essentially, it makes one alcoholic drink feel like six or seven," Trujillo said.
Wilson's bill now heads to the Senate, where a similar bill by Sens. Anita Yeckel and Betty Sims, both R-St. Louis, and Roseann Bentley, R-Springfield, is awaiting floor debate.