Sexual Assault Laws History

The 1977 Senate bill that proposed a revision of the sexual assault laws was discussed and voted on at a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 16, 1977. At that hearing, committee members explicitly acknowledged their understanding that there would be no minimum age for perpetrators under the amended law (current 3252(a)), but that persons under sixteen would no longer be subject to criminal prosecution on felony charges for forcible rape or on misdemeanor charges for underage consensual sex because they would be dealt with under the new juvenile code in delinquency proceedings. See Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, February 16, 1977, at 121-27. In short, when one examines the prior sexual assault laws and the legislative history of the current statute, there is little doubt that the Legislature intended the term "a person" in 3252(a) to include persons under sixteen. See State v. Read, 165 Vt. 141, 147, 680 A.2d 944, 948 (1996) (courts presume that Legislature makes changes in law with knowledge of prior legislation on same subject); Holmberg v. Brent, 161 Vt. 153, 155, 636 A.2d 333, 335 (1993) (legislative history, as well as history of related statutes on same subject, offer clues to legislative intent).