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House Co-Sponsorship Memoranda

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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: April 4, 2018 04:27 PM
From: Representative Christopher M. Rabb
To: All House members
Subject: Consent-in-Custody
In the near future, I plan to introduce legislation that would close a dangerous legal loophole in Pennsylvania’s sexual assault law to better protect all citizens.

In Pennsylvania, a police officer who sexually assaults a person in custody can use sexual consent by the individual as a defense in court. While state law bars consensual sex between corrections officers and prison inmates and between mental health workers and patients, no such protection exists for a person arrested by officers in the field. All taxpayers have a right to expect that law enforcement officers are carrying out justice efficiently and with integrity.

My legislation would expand Pennsylvania’s definition of institutional sexual assault to include law enforcement officers and any person in the officer’s custody. By doing so, it would eliminate sexual consent as a defense, making any sexual contact between an officer and a person in custody a third-degree felony.

In New York, where similar legislation passed unanimously in March, the NYPD supported the move to bring all police departments in line with their existing internal policy. Lawmakers there took action after a high-profile case in which two detectives arrested an 18-year-old woman on marijuana charges and, while she was handcuffed in the backseat of the police car, allegedly raped her and forced her to perform a sex act. In that case, the cops admitted to having sex with her, but alleged it was consensual.

A Buffalo News database of more than 700 allegations of sexual misconduct by law enforcement officers nationally from 2006 to 2015 showed a repeating pattern of officers using their position and an imbalance of power to force women in custody into sexual acts. An analysis from the database found at least 26 cases in which the officer was acquitted or had charges dropped based on the consent defense, according to Buzzfeed News.

Please join me in co-sponsoring this legislation to close a dangerous legal loophole, better protect all citizens and ensure justice is applied fairly.

Introduced as HB2691