There is No Consent Under Arrest

by Ayana Antoine ’20 and Brynn Smith ’19

The discussion regarding sexual misconduct has been the foundation for movements like Me Too and Times Up, which aim to not only show the trauma of sexual assault, but to end the systemic sexual harassment in all industries. These movements publicize rape culture and how prominent it is in just about every public sphere such as music, politics, sports, and film. Despite all this discussion, not all specific cases are getting the attention that they deserve.

In September, 18-year-old Anna Chambers was driving near Coney Island with her friends when two detectives not in uniform detained her for possession of marijuana and released her male companions.  Investigators say that detectives Eddie Martins and Richard Hall sexual assaulted Chambers before she was eventually released. The officers were indicted on charges  including rape, felony sexual assault, and kidnapping. Martins and Hall pleaded not guilty to rape and the other charges, but this case highlighted a loophole in the law. In New York and 35 other states, officers can claim a detainee consented to a sexual encounter and face only a misdemeanor or  “official misconduct” charge, which carries a maximum one-year sentence.  

Semen from both officers was detected in Chamber’s rape kit; considering this evidence, allowing Martins and Hall to possibly get off with a misdemeanor is blatantly corrupt. . Chambers had her sense of safety taken away from her by the very people who are supposed to protect her. And these officers, these supposed heroes, had the opportunity to get off with a lesser charge because of a law, that absurdly suggests that someone under arrest or possible arrest can consent to sex.

Not only have the officers claimed no nonconsensual sexual encounter occurred, but the detective’s attorney is attacking Chamber’s character. The case will come down to her word against theirs, which is more problematic because there is no instance where sex on duty, consensual or not, should be tolerated. And yet, the officers were initially re-assigned to different precincts.

While these officers are deservedly going to trial the loophole in the law raises the question of the morality of the New York justice system in reference to police. If Martins and Hall, or any other cop in the future, have the possibility of receiving only a misdemeanor after commiting a crime so inhumane, something is wrong obviously wrong.

“I was shocked,” New York Democratic state Sen. Diane Savino told the AP when she heard of the loophole. “It should be clear across the state for officers from every department, that when someone is in custody they do not have the ability to consent to sexual activity.”