New York DWI stop leads to allegations of sexual assault

A woman from Long Island is suing a police officer based on allegations of sexual assault. The woman claims the officer assaulted her while she was hand cuffed in the backseat of the squad car, according to a report by the NY Daily News.

The case began when officers Rachel Miller and Gary Zima stopped Jenny Hannigan in 2011. The officers suspected that Ms. Hannigan was driving while intoxicated and arrested her. She was handcuffed and placed in the backseat of the police cruiser. At this time, Officer Zima allegedly joined Ms. Hannigan in the back of the police vehicle. While his partner drove to the station, Officer Zima allegedly sat close to the victim and, according to the victim's statement, molested her while she was in their custody.

Details of the DUI stop

The young woman reported the crime to the Nassau County Police Internal Affairs, a department designed to preserve the reputation of the police department and investigate any allegations of misconduct. To file a complaint, a person can visit any police facility and speak with a supervisor, send a request to the Internal Affairs Unit of Nassau County, speak with a desk officer over the phone or send an email detailing the complaint. Within two weeks of receiving the complaint, the department sends an acknowledgement from an investigating officer. Once the investigation is completed, results are sent to the person who requested the investigation.

After investigation, the complaint filed by Ms. Hannigan was closed as "undetermined." Ms. Hannigan has now filed a federal lawsuit against both the offending officer and his partner. The suit claims the partner made no attempt to help the victim and seeks $150,000 in compensation for the victim.

DUI stop basics

Officers conducting DUI stops in New York are required to follow certain laws. Part of these laws include respecting the driver and passenger's basic rights. Although officers who make these stops can require the driver take a field sobriety test they cannot harass the driver.

If the officer conducts a field sobriety test and the results indicate that the driver was operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) over New York's limit of 0.08, that driver could be arrested and charged for driving while intoxicated, or DWI. These charges come with severe penalties in New York, potentially including imprisonment, monetary fines, high insurance premiums and revocation of one's driver's license. As a result, those charged with these crimes should take the charges seriously. If the arresting officer did not follow New York or federal law regarding proper conduct during a stop, the charges could be reduced or even dropped. Contact an experienced New York DWI defense lawyer to help better ensure your legal rights are protected.