Personal Injury Blog

Maryland Police Officer Charged with Rape and Assault

By: Allan M. Siegel

All sexual assaults are unjustifiable crimes, and those committed by officials sworn to protect the public from harm are especially troubling. In one recent case, a Prince George’s County police officer allegedly raped a woman during a nighttime traffic stop. The officer in question is now facing criminal sexual assault charges, including charges of first- and second-degree rape, and he has been suspended without pay and stripped of his badge.

If police reports are accurate, this horrific act represents a fundamental misuse of police power— and while prosecutors have chosen to press charges in this instance, there are many cases where the civil justice system provides the only true recourse for victims of sexual violence. At Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata, & Siegel, P.C., our Washington, DC personal injury attorneys are passionate about this issue, and about protecting victims of sexual abuse who for various reasons cannot get their day of justice in the criminal courts.

The Relationship Between Police Power and Sexual Abuse

According to the news reports, Officer Ryan Macklin was arrested on Monday, October 15th. On the previous Thursday at 1 a.m., Macklin stopped a woman on University Boulevard for a routine traffic stop. After ordering her to drive behind a nearby store, he forced her to perform a sex act, leaving before the victims’ friend arrived on the scene. Police surveillance videos have since been made public, and given witness testimony and the police precinct reaction, it’s possible that Macklin could ultimately face a conviction.

Although the media focuses on major shootings and larger-than-life corruption schemes as evidence that government power is misused, sexual assault by police officers is an equally serious abuse of power. In addition to being a violation of the victim’s bodily autonomy, police officer sexual assault is a crime against the public’s trust. The numbers behind police officer sexual assault are grim: A 2013 report published by the Cato Institute found sexual assault is the second most reported claim of police officer misconduct. At the Associated Press, a year-long investigation into police conduct unearthed that more than 1,000 officers were decertified for sexual misconduct, and those only for the reported instances.

What the Civil Justice System Can Offer Sexual Assault Victims

When people talk about seeking justice, they usually mean in the criminal justice system, where abusers can be put behind bars. Although our criminal justice system is often thought to be one of the best-designed criminal systems in the world, it isn’t perfect: In many cases, the burden of proof is just too high for victims of sex crimes to get the justice they deserve. After all, sexual assault is notoriously difficult to prove, and evidence is often mishandled or incorrectly gathered from the scene of the crime.

Sexual assault victims also frequently experience post-traumatic stress disorder in the wake of their injuries. PTSD is a serious condition that affects sexual assault victims more than any other group, including veterans of war, and it can affect memory, logical reasoning, and other crucial brain functions. Because these are often required to build an airtight case in a criminal court, meeting the high standard set by the measure of “beyond a reasonable doubt” can be nearly impossible for some.

However, unlike the criminal justice system, which requires a unanimous jury to even render a verdict, the civil justice system has a lower burden of proof. To meet the standard of proof in a civil case, you must only demonstrate that there is a “preponderance of the evidence,” meaning that it is more likely to have happened than not.

Although the civil justice system cannot convict those who have harmed you, plaintiffs may be awarded financial compensation based on the level of injury caused by a defendant. In the real world, this can provide more for a victim’s recovery than a criminal conviction. When you’ve been struggling with painful isolation and deep psychological trauma after sexual assault, receiving financial damages may allow you to get the rest, recovery, and peace of mind that you need to begin healing.

Seek Justice with Our Washington, DC Injury Attorneys

Our personal injury lawyers at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata and Siegel, P.C. have more than nine decades of combined experience in the field of personal injury law. More than just a law firm, our team has dedicated our personal and professional lives to helping victims fight for the justice they need in the civil courts.

When you’ve been victimized and injured by sexual assault, you don’t have to wait for the criminal justice system to prosecute your attacker. Holding your accuser accountable in a civil court will not interfere with any existing criminal proceedings, and can often bring a small measure of peace back to your life.

If you need to consult with a personal injury attorney on a sexual assault claim, contact us at (888) 885-5638 today. We offer free consultations and serve clients throughout DC, Maryland, and Virginia.