North Carolina officer under fire after female driver alleges sexual assault during DUI patdown
"The officer touched my client in every way that a normal person, especially a woman, would not want to be touched by a man. He touched her breasts and shook them. He touched everywhere else around her private parts," the woman's attorney said.
A North Carolina police officer's search of a woman during a DUI stop allegedly crossed a line, but the district attorney disagrees.
In the early hours of September 25, a 26-year-old female driver stopped to fill gas on St. Mary's Street in Raleigh.
Police officers subsequently surrounded her and told her they had observed she was hitting some curbs along the way, thereby suspecting she was driving under the influence, WRAL reports.
When they tested the driver, they found she had a blood alcohol content of 0.15, which is almost twice the permitted limit under North Carolina law. According to the woman's attorney, Karen Griffin, what happened next was outside the bounds of a typical traffic stop. Her client, who cannot be named for legal reasons, claims she was the victim of a sexual assault.
Officer KE Van Althius is seen in police bodycam footage searching the driver, who is in handcuffs, before unzipping her jacket. "Do you have anything on you I need to worry about?" Althius asks. "Anything that would poke or stick me?"
The video was obtained by Griffin from the district attorney's office to use as evidence in the case.
"I've never seen a search that invasive," she said. "The officer touched my client in every way that a normal person, especially a woman, would not want to be touched by a man. He touched her breasts and shook them. He touched everywhere else around her private parts."
The officer is also seen inspecting the woman's shorts before asking her to turn.
"He made her turn to face the car, asked her to spread her legs apart, then asked her to spread them further and ran his hand in between her legs," Griffin said.
That said, Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman acknowledged the uncomfortable situation, but does not see a crime. "Searches are invasive by their nature, in order to make sure the officer is protected," Freeman explained, adding a weapon can be as small as a needle or a razor blade.
"Is this something we would like to see done or have done to us? No. Is it something that is illegal in the context of conducting a search to an arrest? It does not appear to be at this point," Freeman said. "Our role in this situation is to try and make a determination whether there's been any criminal violation. Looking at it preliminarily at this point, we don't see that."
That said, the Raleigh Police Department is currently investigating the incident, per a spokesperson.