Select Page

Family Violence
St. Johns University School of Law
Jaus, Rhonnie B.

FALL 2014
                            A.         Forcible Compulsion
                                                            1.      In General
a.       NYPL § 130.00(8)
i.     “Forcible Compulsion” means to compel by either:
A)    Use of physical force; or
B)    A threat, express or implied, which places a person in fear of immediate death or physical injury to himself, herself, or another person, or in fear that he, she, or another person will immediately be kidnapped
b.      People v. Coleman (1977)
i.        Victim testified that she feared for her life and for her son when she was held in an elevator with her son seized and her money and clothes taken.
ii.      Court found sufficient evidence to support a finding of implied threat which placed the victim in a fear of immediate death or serious physical injury, establishing that acts of sodomy committed upon victim were by forcible compulsion
c.       People v. Thompson (1988)
i.        “immediacy” issue
ii.      The proper question in determining whether threats amount to forcible compulsion is not whether the defendant was capable of carrying out his threats, but rather whether the jury could  reasonable infer that those threats placed the victim in fear of “immediate death or serious physical injury”
iii.    Evidence of forcible compulsion sufficient to establish forcible compulsion even though defendant and victim were located in the juvenile tier of the county jail and separated by bars, because the defendant’s threats to injure the victim or have others do so could put a victim in fear of immediate death/serious physical injury. 
A)    Defendant threatened that the victim could be get beat up anywhere
B)    The breadth of the defendant’s threats encompassed the possibility that the harm could be delivered by anyone, including those with immediate access to the victim. 
d.      People v. Jenkins (2001)
i.        Evidence was sufficient to establish the element of forcible compulsion and fully supported defendant’s conviction for rape
ii.      Focus of the inquiry was on the state of mind produced in the victim by the defendant’s conduct
A)    Defendant had physically assaulted and injured the victim 2 days earlier, had destroyed her personal property minutes before the sex act took place, blocked the door with a piece of furniture, was holding a razor-like instrument when he directed her to disrobe, and made statements regarding “dropping” her and “dropping” her daughter who was present elsewhere in the apartment at the time
1)      Victim understood “dropping” her and her daughter to mean killing her and her daughter
e.       People v. Sehn (2002)
i.        The jury’s finding that the defendant overcame his victims’ will by forcible compulsion was not against the weight of the evidence
ii.      Defendant was substantially older and larger than his victims, and they looked to the defendant as an authority figure/caregiver
A)    Defendant was alone with the girls and acting in the role of babysitter
iii.    Given the age of the victims, defendant’s extreme advantage in maturity, seize, and strength, the fact that the victims were isolated in an apartment with the defendant and considered him to be an authority figure whom they obeyed, trusted, and viewed as an uncle, the victims’ testimony was legally sufficient to allow a rational jury to conclude that defendant committed the acts of sexual intercourse by means of forcible compulsion
f.       People v. DiGioia (1990)
i.        Defendant’s ominous statements together with the fact that he took the victim to an isolated area was sufficient to establish the requisite threat of immediate death or physical injury
ii.      Focus was on the victim’s statement of mind produced by the defendant’s conduct
A)    Victim testified that she feared for her life
g.      People v. Dorsey (1980)
i.        While in an elevator, defendant stalled the elevator and demanded intercourse and sodomy.  Victim complied without resistance and without an explicit threat from defendant. 
ii.      Defendant created an implicit threat of harm in light of the fact that victim was trapped with the defendant, who outweighed her by 70 lbs.  Further, defendant’s stalling of the elevator was a physical act directed against victim. 
A)    Elevator was stopped in between floors, making retreat impossible and help inaccessible
B)    Defendant’s act of manipulating the elevator to stop it in between floors was a physical act directed against the defendant which constituted the use of physical force
                                                            2.      No Requirement of Resistance
a.       People v. Fransua (1987)
i.        Victim testified that defendant grabbed her by the hair and maintained a firm grip on her while forcing her to engage in sexual acts
A)    These acts were sufficient to support a conviction under the definition of forcible compulsion
ii.      Victim was not required to put up any resistance
b.      People v. Newell (2002)
i.        Victim’s testimony (who was blind and mentally retarded) that defendant, who was the victim’s father, used physical force by sitting on the victim’s thigh, his threats to her prior intercourse with her, coupled with defendant’s admission that he entered the victim’s bedroom after she was in bed, explained to her how to masturbate and observed her doing so, provided legally sufficient proof from which the jury could conclude, as it did, that defendant was guilty of rape in the first degree.
A)    Defendant said if victim moved her finger he would “get mad and moody”
B)    In deciding whether there was forcible compulsion in a rape, inquiry focuses on the state of mind produced in the victim by the defendant’s conduct, not what the defendant would or could have done, but rather what the victim, observing the defendant’s conduct, feared he would or might do if the victim did not comply with his demands
c.       People v. Sadler (2004)
i.        After several refusals to engage in sex with the defendant, he came into the victim’s  room, grabbed her arm, and directed her into the laundry room
A)    Defendant put his left hand over the victim’s head and pushed her head towards his penis
B)    Defendant told her to go to the laundry room
ii.      The defendant used forcible compulsion in carrying out the sodomy due to his superior age and size, the defendant’s position of authority over the victim, the defendant’ threats of extending the victim’s length  of detention, coupled with the physical acts by the defendant of grabbing the victim’s arm, directing her to an empty laundry room in the middle of the night, and physical pushing the victim’s head down and

id not visit his son.  On Tuesday of the following week he called to request visitation.  Victim agreed so long as he picked up the son and her and took them to the motel he was staying at under the understanding that a friend of his would be with them at all times.  The defendant and his friend picked up the two and drove to the hotel.  Upon arrival the friend left.  Shortly thereafter defendant attacked victim, threatened to kill her, and forced her to perform fellatio and engage in sexual intercourse with him.  He also forced the victim to tell their son to watch.  He allowed them to leave after the incident, and victim reported the incident the next day.  Defendant moved to dismiss the following indictment asserting that he came within a marital exemption to both rape and sodomy.  The people contended that because the couple was living apart pursuant to the TOP, they were not married for purposes of the statute.  The trial court dismissed the indictment.  The appellate court reversed and remanded, finding that the couple was not married for the purposes of the statute.  The defendant was convicted and appealed asserting that both statutes are unconstitutional.
iii.    Issue
A)    Is defendant correct in his assertion that the martial rape exemption in NY’s rape and sodomy statutes renders those statutes violative of the equal protection clause?
iv.    Holding
A)    Based on equal protection analysis, the law must be that any person who engages in sexual intercourse or deviate sexual intercourse with any other person by forcible compulsion is guilt of either rape or sodomy
v.      Rationale
A)    Under NY law a male is guilty of rape when he engages in sexual intercourse with a female by forcible compulsion.  Female is defined as any female person not married to the actor.  Likewise, deviate sexual conduct in the NY sodomy statute is limited to sexual conduct between persons not married.  Therefore, there is a marital exception for both forcible rape and forcible sodomy.  This marital exemption has certain exemptions, in that a husband and wife are considered to be not married if at the time of the assault they are living apart pursuant to a court order or a separation agreement.  Regarding the marital exemption, the EPC does not prohibit a state from making classifications, provided the statute does not arbitrarily burden a particular group of individuals.  When a statute draws a distinction based up on marital status, the classification must be reasonable and must be based upon some ground of difference that rationally explains the different treatment.  This court finds no rational basis for distinguishing between marital and non-marital rape. 
vi.    Judgment
A)    Conviction affirmed