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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: March 4, 2019 12:49 PM
From: Senator Katie J. Muth and Sen. Maria Collett, Sen. Timothy P. Kearney, Sen. Steven J. Santarsiero, Sen. Lindsey M. Williams
To: All Senate members
Subject: No Consent in Custody
In the near future, we plan to introduce companion legislation to Rep. Chris Rabb’s bill, previously HB 2691 of 2017-2018.

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 or questioned by officers in the field. All taxpayers have a right to expect that law enforcement officers are carrying out justice efficiently and with integrity.

We have to close this dangerous legal loophole in Pennsylvania’s sexual assault law to better protect all women, men and children within our commonwealth.

Our 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.

On January 22, 2019, a Wilkes-Barre police officer was arrested by state police and accused of allegedly sexually assaulting four different women while he was on duty according to a report by the Philly Voice.

In New York, where similar legislation passed unanimously in March 2018, 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.

This is an objectively bipartisan issue that requires our action. Please join us by co-sponsoring this legislation and let's close this loophole now!

Introduced as SB851