Police officers are given wide latitude and discretion to enforce the law and protect citizens from harm. However, it is never acceptable for police officers to abuse that discretion through sexual assault, harassment, or other types of sexual misconduct. Not only is sexual assault against a citizen not a part of a law enforcement officer’s job, it is also illegal.
Sexual assault by a police officer can result in physical harm to the victim of the assault. On top of that, the experience can also stigmatize the victim, leading to emotional distress, mental anguish, and possible Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), both now and in the future.
Sexual harassment by anyone—most especially a police officer—is never okay. If you or someone close to you has been the victim of sexual assault by a police officer, seek out our knowledgeable and experienced legal representation right away. The Philadelphia police brutality lawyers at The Zeiger Firm are fully prepared to help you pursue justice, as well as the financial compensation, to which you are entitled.
Please call our office today to learn more about how we can assist you with pursuing legal action in your police officer sexual assault case. Our firm handles federal cases that arise in the following counties that comprise the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in the federal court system: Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton, and Philadelphia.
How and When Do Police Officers Commit Acts of Sexual Assault?
Police officers are given a tremendous amount of authority. Even in cases where it is clear that a police officer is acting beyond the scope of that authority, it can be difficult to stop an officer’s advances. This is especially true when the officer is interacting with a vulnerable member of society, such as a young person, an elderly person, or a member of the immigrant community. When a police officer takes advantage of the situation and chooses to sexually assault a public citizen, then the citizen may bring a claim or lawsuit against the officer for any injuries and damages that he or she suffers in the altercation.
Under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, citizens have the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures by police officers and other members of law enforcement. The assault can include fondling, sexual harassment, rape, or oral sex. Moreover, in many cases, these instances of sexual misconduct by a police officer may constitute a form of police brutality.
Sexual assault by police officers can occur in a variety of different contexts. Some of the most common scenarios include the following:
- Arrests – When a police officer places a person under arrest, the arrestee is usually placed in handcuffs and cannot take measures to protect himself or herself. This presents an officer with the opportunity to sexually harass or assault the arrestee.
- Traffic stops – When a police officer engages a traffic stop, the officer pulls a vehicle to the side of the road. Often these take place for a minor driving infraction, or when the officer believes that the driver might be operating the vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Traffic stops present an opportunity to deal with an individual one-on-one, and usually with no witnesses around. Moreover, traffic stops that occur at night present the opportunity for sexual assault by a police officer.
- Mentorship programs – Police departments often sponsor mentorship programs for interns who are interested in joining the police force and shadowing an on-duty police officer. These programs can present opportunities for an officer to commit a sexual assault on the police trainee or intern.
Common Victims of Sexual Assault By Police Officers
Sexual assault by a police officer often involves vulnerable individuals, those the officer believes will not make a claim or fight back in any way. Targeted groups include minors, transgendered individuals, prostitutes, and women who consume alcohol and/or drugs. In these cases, the officer may not think that anyone will believe the individual if he or she files a claim or lawsuit later on. Victims of domestic abuse can be targets of sexual assault by police officers as well.
Steps You Should Take if You Believe That a Police Officer Has Sexually Assaulted You or a Loved One
If you believe that you or someone you love has been the victim of sexual assault by a police officer, there are certain steps you should always take. One of the most important of these steps is contacting a federal civil rights attorney as soon as you can. An experienced federal civil rights attorney can help you assemble various pieces of evidence needed to support your claim, including video footage and witness testimony.
An experienced federal civil rights attorney will also collect all of your medical records and bills, to understand the specific injuries that you may have suffered in the sexual assault incident. Our federal civil rights lawyers can help you pursue a legal claim against the officer to recover monetary compensation for medical treatment, lost earnings, mental distress, as well as physical pain and suffering.
Contact Our Federal Civil Rights Lawyers Today
If you or someone you love has been sexually assaulted by a police officer, the skilled team of federal civil rights attorneys at The Zeiger Firm is ready to assist you with pursuing a claim or filing a lawsuit. In addition to taking legal action against the offending officer, you may also file a claim against the police department or municipality—especially if the incident occurred due to poor officer training or a breakdown in protocol.
To schedule a free consultation and case evaluation with a federal civil rights attorney, call us at (215) 546-0340 or contact us online today to learn more.