A rape case involving on-duty police officers in Brooklyn has brought to light a legal loophole that exists in 35 states – there is no law that specifically prohibits police officers or sheriff’s deputies from having sex with someone in their custody. Thus, armed law enforcement officers can claim that the sex, or any other form of sexual contact, was consensual.
The victim in the Brooklyn case was 18 when cops found her with two friends in a parked car. When a search of the car produced some marijuana, the cops handcuffed her and let her two male friends go. Then they put her in the back of an unmarked police van with tinted windows and took turns assaulting her as the van drove around Brooklyn. When they were done, surveillance footage shows them dropping her on the side of the road. No arrest was made and no citations were issued or paperwork filed regarding the stop.
The girl’s mother took her to the hospital where nurses used a rape kit that produced DNA from two detectives from the Brooklyn South narcotics unit. Both have since been charged with rape and resigned from the force.
It was not until two weeks after she reported her rape that the Brooklyn teenager was ticketed for possession of marijuana. On the same day, the New York Times broke the now famous story of Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual harassment. Advocates working to expand police sexual assault laws say that while the #MeToo movement shows the beginnings of a cultural shift in the U.S., the next crucial step must be a shift in policy making.
Laws with Loopholes
Although there are nationwide rules that outlaw sex between detainees and probation officers, prison guards, and jailguards, in many states the same does not apply to law enforcement officers. The result is that by using a consent defense, an officer faces only a misdemeanor “official misconduct” charge which carries only a one-year maximum sentence.
According to a Buffalo News database, since 2006, there have been at least 158 law enforcement officers charged with sexual crimes committed against someone under their control. Using the consent defense, 26 were acquitted or had the charges against them dropped.
Inspired by the teenager’s ordeal, a New York City council member has proposed a bill that would make it illegal for police officers to have sex with anyone being held in custody. He also called on state legislators to bring similar legislation for a vote on the state level. If the law were changed, New York would join Oregon, Alaska, and Arizona in closing this legal loophole.
Red Bank Civil Litigation Lawyers at McOmber & McOmber, P.C. Provide Experienced Counsel and Representation to Sex Assault VictimsSince 1974, the skilled Red Bank civil litigation lawyers at McOmber & McOmber, P.C. have been providing clients with experienced and knowledgeable representation at trial. Call our Red Bank office at 732-842-6500 or our Marlton office at 856-985-9800 today or contact us online to schedule a free review of your case. From our offices in Red Bank and Marlton, we represent clients throughout New Jersey.