New York lawmakers recently passed a bill that prohibits police from having sex with detainees. The bill was introduced following a teenager’s accusations that she was raped by two police officers while handcuffed in the back of a police van. New York was one of 35 states that had no law explicitly banning sexual relations between police and those in police custody. Therefore, police could avoid sexual assault convictions by claiming that sex with people in custody was consensual. Legislators in at least six other states have now begun to draft and introduce bills to close the legal loopholes in their statutes.
Accused Narcotics Detectives Await Trial
An 18-year old woman claimed she was sexually assaulted by two narcotics detectives after she was detained for possession of marijuana and loose pills. A rape kit confirmed that the DNA belonged to the detectives (who have since resigned from the force), but they claim that the sex was consensual. The officers have pled not guilty to the charges and are currently awaiting trial.
The Legal Loophole is Closed
Shortly after the allegations surfaced in this case, a New York City Council member asked the state to pass legislation that would not allow police officers to claim consent as a defense to accusations of rape by detainees. The recently-passed bill states that someone in police custody does not have the capacity to consent to sexual relations with an officer. The Council member says he is proud that state level leaders have closed what he describes as antiquated loophole and he hopes that other parts of the country will follow suit.
Implications of the Reform
Prior to the reform, police officers could avoid rape and sexual assault charges by claiming that sex with a detainee was consensual. At most, New York police officers would be convicted of a misdemeanor for official misconduct even if they admitted to having sex with the person in custody. In Texas, sex in custody is classified as an administrative offense which carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison. In other states, accusers are required to prove that the officer used their authority to coerce them into sex. Now, in New York and other states that institute reform, sex in custody will be automatically deemed a sex crime.
Since 2006, at least 158 law enforcement officers have been charged with sexual assault, sexual battery or unlawful sexual contact with someone in custody. Of those, at least 26 have been acquitted or had the charges dropped after claiming consent as a defense. With the passage of New York State Senate Bill S7708, New York officers will no longer be able to do so because it is now established that people under arrest, detention or otherwise in custody are incapable of consenting. The teen’s lawyer hopes that this will become a national issue and that other states will make changes to their laws as well.
Marlton Civil Litigation Lawyers at McOmber & McOmber, P.C. Represent Victims of Police MisconductIf you were sexually assaulted or otherwise violated by a law enforcement officer, contact a Marlton civil litigation lawyer at McOmber & McOmber, P.C. Our experienced attorneys are skilled in handling all aspects of civil trials and can help guide you through the litigation process. We represent clients throughout New Jersey, including those in Red Bank, Marlton, Middletown and Cherry Hill. Contact us online or call our Red Bank office at 732-842-6500, or our Marlton office at 856-985-9800 for a free, confidential consultation.