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Being Secure in One's Person: Does Sexual Assault Violate a Constitutionally Protected Right?

NCJ Number
Boston College Law Review Volume: 38 Issue: 5 Dated: September 1997 Pages: 1011-1049
A J Simons
Date Published
39 pages
This analysis of the United States Supreme Court decision and lower court decisions in United States v. Lanier concludes that sexual abuse violates a recognized right of bodily integrity as encompassed by the liberty interest protected by the 14th Amendment.
The analysis also focuses on the history of substantive due process in the context of the right to bodily integrity. The Lanier case involved a Federal indictment of a Tennessee juvenile court judge for allegedly sexually assaulting several women in his judicial chambers. A jury found Lanier guilty, a 3-member panel of the appellate court upheld the conviction, the full appellate court reversed the panel decision. and the Supreme Court reversed the reversal. However, the Supreme Court held that the appellate court applied the incorrect standard, remanded the case for consideration under the appropriate standard, and left undecided the issue of whether Judge Lanier deprived his victims of a constitutionally protected right to be free from sexual assault. Nevertheless, Supreme Court precedent and appellate court decisions have reiterated that the Constitution does indeed protect a right that sits at the core of human individuality: the right to bodily integrity. Furthermore, the right to bodily integrity is embodied in the notion that the State cannot deprive citizens of their freedom as articulated in the Bill of Rights and as guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. Sexual assault can never be justified as a legitimate State interest that can be rationally justified; therefore, it can never outweigh the constitutionally protected right to bodily integrity. Footnotes


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