November 14, 2008 By Wallin & Klarich

Pregnancy Can Be Considered “Great Bodily Injury”

Under California law, anyone who in the commission of a felony “personally inflicts great bodily injury….shall be punished by an additional and consecutive term of imprisonment.” (Penal Code §12022.7, subd. (a), italics added.) Under the “one strike law” (§667.61), when a Defendant is convicted of a specified California sex offense, and the jury finds true a 12022.7 allegation, the court must sentence the defendant to a term of 15 years to life. In an August 28, 2008 opinion in People v Cross, the California Supreme Court held that a pregnancy without medical complications that results from unlawful but non-forcible sexual conduct with a minor can support a finding of “great bodily injury” under California law. The court held that a jury could make the finding that the pregnancy itself is the great bodily injury.

In the Cross case, the Defendant was convicted of having sexual intercourse with his 13 year old stepdaughter, among other crimes. In that case the 13 year old victim was impregnated by the Defendant who ultimately brought the victim in for an abortion that had to be performed at San Francisco General Hospital because the pregnancy was advanced. The District Attorney filed charges that alleged that the Defendant had personally inflicted great bodily injury upon the victim and argued to the jury that they could consider the pregnancy as the basis for the allegation of personally inflicting great bodily injury. The Defendant argued that a pregnancy without medical complications that resulted from unlawful but non-forcible intercourse, as occurred in his case could never be the basis for a finding of personally inflicting great bodily injury. The Supreme Court disagreed and rejected the Defendant’s argument and held that the based solely on the evidence of the pregnancy, that a jury could reasonably have found that the victim suffered great bodily injury, and left in place the Defendant’s 15 years to life sentence.

It is very important to note that the court would not go so far as to rule that EVERY pregnancy resulting from unlawful sexual conduct, forcible or otherwise, will support a factual determination that the victim suffered great bodily injury. However, this case opens the door for District Attorney’s offices to charge the enhancement in any case where a victim of a sex crime becomes pregnant, even in the context of a California statutory rape case where the “victim” and Defendant are in a long-term relationship and make a joint decision to have the child. If you are charged with a sex crime where the victim became pregnant, or any sex crime at all for that matter, be sure to contact the knowledgeable California sex crime attorneys at Wallin & Klarich. Visit our website at and calls us toll free 888-749-0034. We will be there when you call.

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