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Consent is not a criminal defense to sexual assault by police

A new Louisiana law that regulates police behavior during an arrest has been passed without any discernible opposition by police organizations or individual officers. The law prohibits police from having "consensual sex" with a suspect during an arrest. The issue was raised in the past year when two police officers in another state tried to assert the criminal defense of consent in a case where the officers were arrested for allegedly raping a female suspect in the back of a police van.

One legislator explained that its purpose is to make it absolutely clear that a person who is being arrested or in police custody for any reason is legally incapable of giving consent to sexual contact. In a sense, the concept is similar to the common provision that makes it legally impossible for a person under 16 to give consent to sexual relations. Although the need for such a law may seem far-fetched, there has been a steady increase of such complaints made against male police officers in recent years.

The most publicized recent case involves two police officers in New York who defended a female suspect's charges of rape by saying that the woman consented. In this time of intensive scrutiny of male attitudes and actions by women and women's organizations, the assertion of that defense created a public outcry of protests. Several states passed laws similar to the one just passed in Louisiana. There are now 19 states that have similar laws on the books.

Any person taken into police custody in Louisiana is now protected by the law. It makes a clear statement that the power balance between police and suspects in custody is lopsided. The law's overwhelming logic did not even draw opposition or discussion from any police organizations. Legislators and supporters hope that this will eradicate the oppressive tactics used by a few rogue officers who are willing to betray their oath to protect and serve the people. Whenever an individual is victimized by official oppression of any kind, a consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney is highly recommended to assure protection of one's basic rights.

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