Piccuta Law Group was recently retained to represent a prisoner who was sexually abused by a prison guard at Monterey County Jail last month. The prisoner is a thirty year old female inmate who was serving a short sentence for non-violent crimes. She was sentenced for less than one year for crimes involving fraudulent instruments and receiving stolen property. She is being released from jail later this month.
The Monterey County Jail is controlled and staffed by the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office-Detention Division. According to the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office, the Detention Division falls under the Corrections Bureau which also oversees the Court Services Division. This Division “is responsible for the intake, housing and release of all inmates at the Monterey County Jail which encompasses both the Main Jail and Rehabilitation Facility.”
The Facts Set Forth By Our Civil Rights Lawyers
On October 5, 2018, Monterey County Sheriff deputy, Marlon Alvarenga, was caught engaging in sexual contact with the inmate. He was questioned after an investigation and admitted to the encounter. He was arrested for assault by a public officer and sexual contact by a public officer with an inmate detained in a detention facility.
The firm’s client was being targeted by Alvarenga who made efforts to follow her around the jail. This included positioning himself in places where she was scheduled to be and even being present at the jail when he was not on duty. Upon information and belief, at the time of the sexual abuse, Alvarenga was not on the clock, yet he was able to isolate the firm’s client.
Alvarenga instructed the inmate to enter a supply closet area where the sexual abuse occurred. The sexual abuse involved vaginal penetration of the female inmate. Another inmate disrupted the encounter which prompted Alvarenga to stop.
Upon information and belief, Alvarenga had previously engaged in other inappropriate conduct with other female inmates at the facility. Other female inmates disclosed other interactions with Alvarenga of a sexual nature. Upon information and belief, the officials at the Monterey County Jail and Monterey County Sherriff’s Office, knew, or had reason to know, that Alvarenga had previously participated in such conduct or was likely too.
Federal Civil Rights Law on Sexual Abuse of Prisoners Explained by Our Monterey Civil Rights Attorneys
Sexual interactions between a prison guard and an inmate are almost never consensual. This is true even if physical coercion does not occur. In other words, the prisoner need not be forcibly raped or physically assaulted in a sexual nature to constitute sexual abuse. The majority of times, the sexual abuse occurs without physical injury or physical force. The sexual abuse is perpetrated because of the great difference in power between a prisoner and guard. In reality, a prisoner has no choice but to obey and acquiesce to the orders and demands of a prison guard.
Federal Courts in California are under the appellate jurisdiction of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. This means that if there is no controlling United States Supreme Court case, that the law as established by the decisions in the Ninth Circuit are controlling on the courts located therein.
In Wood v. Beauclair, the Ninth Circuit held that “when a prisoner alleges sexual abuse by a prison guard…the prisoner is entitled to a presumption that the conduct was not consensual.” Wood v. Beauclair, 692.F.3d 1041, 1049 (9th Cir. 2012). This means that in California, all sexual interactions between a prisoner and guard are presumed to be non-consensual unless proven otherwise.
Even though imprisoned, prisoners still have certain civil rights that may not be violated. Prisoners, who are victims of sexual abuse by guards, have suffered a violation of their constitutional rights. Specifically, their Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. This includes the right to be free from: sexual coercion, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, rape, lewd acts and other sexual activity advanced by employees of jails and detention centers. When this right is violated, an inmate may pursue the person responsible and the officials who allowed such abuse to occur. The prisoner may do so by bring a civil rights lawsuit and asserting a claim for a violation of the Eighth Amendment through 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
State Law Claims For Prisoner Sexual Abuse and the Notice of Government Claim Process Explained
In addition to bringing a claim for a violation of the Eighth Amendment, a prisoner may bring other state law claims arising from sexual abuse by a guard. These state law claims includes assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, among others. However, in order to sue the state or a local government entity (including their employees) for state law claims, an individual must give notice of the claim within six months. If the person fails to do so, he or she is barred from filing any state law claims in his or her lawsuit. If the person only has state law claims and this notice is not given, he or she is barred entirely from advancing a lawsuit.
This notice procedure was established by the California Tort Claims Act and is specifically set forth in California Government Code § 910.
This Government Code Section sets forth:
A claim shall be presented by the claimant or by a person acting on his or her behalf and shall show all of the following:
(a) The name and post office address of the claimant.
(b) The post office address to which the person presenting the claim desires notices to be sent.
(c) The date, place and other circumstances of the occurrence or transaction which gave rise to the claim asserted.
(d) A general description of the indebtedness, obligation, injury, damage or loss incurred so far as it may be known at the time of presentation of the claim.
(e) The name or names of the public employee or employees causing the injury, damage, or loss, if known.
(f) The amount claimed if it totals less than ten thousand dollars ($10,000) as of the date of presentation of the claim, including the estimated amount of any prospective injury, damage, or loss, insofar as it may be known at the time of the presentation of the claim together with the basis of computation of the amount claimed. If the amount claimed exceeds ten thousand dollars ($10,000), no dollar amount shall be included in the claim. However, it shall indicate whether the claim would be a limited civil case.
Almost without exception, the State of California, each County and each local government entity, has a Notice of Government Claim form available for use. This form, will set forth all the necessary items of information required to comply with California Government Code § 910 and to give proper notice of the claim. However, it is essential that the form be filled out correctly and completely and delivered promptly within the six month window to the right entity. Any mistake in filling out the form or delivering it to the proper location may waive an individual’s right to sue for state law claims.
Advice From Our Monterey Civil Rights Lawyers on Filing the Notice of Government Claim Form
The Notice of Government Claim Form for Monterey County can be found by clicking the following link. Notice of Government Claim Form-Monterey County.
This is the same form that one should use to preserve the right to sue the Monterey County Jail, Monterey County Sheriff’s Office or any of its employees, deputies, officials or officers. As set forth in the form, once completed the form must be delivered to the Clerk of the Board. Our Monterey Civil Rights Lawyers always recommend sending the Notice of Government Claim form by certified mail which will prove it was sent and delivered. This is in addition to hand delivering the form to the appropriate office or location.
For Monterey County, Notice of Government Claim forms can be hand-delivered to the Monterey County Clerk of the Board located at 168 West Alisal Street, 1st Floor, Salinas, California 93906. An individual with a claim should bring two copies when hand-delivering the form. One copy should be left with the Clerk and the other copy should be stamped proving delivery and kept by the person making the claim.
Click the following link to see the actual Claim Form filed by our Monterey civil rights lawyers involving this case. (Please note that the client’s name has been redacted).
Contact One of Our Monterey Civil Rights Lawyers if You Have a Civil Rights Case
If you have a civil rights case, contact one of our lawyers today. Our firm handles civil rights cases throughout California and Arizona. Our Monterey civil rights lawyers are not limited to practicing in central California. We have handled cases for individuals as far north as Washington State and as far South as San Diego. We also regularly handle cases throughout all of Arizona. Our lawyers handle a variety of cases including, but not limited to: prisoner cases, police brutality, unlawful arrest, correctional officer sexual abuse, law enforcement misconduct, excessive force, malicious prosecution, violations of the First, Fourth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, Bivens Claims, FTCA claims, Bane Act violations, among several others.
About the author: The content on this page was authored and prepared by Monterey civil rights and personal injury attorney Charles Tony Piccuta. He graduated with honors from Indiana University-Maurer School of Law in Bloomington in 2006 (Ranked Top 35 US News & World Report 2018). Piccuta took and passed the State bars of Arizona, California, Illinois and Nevada (all on the first try). He is a trial attorney that regularly handles civil rights lawsuits and serious personal injury cases. He has obtained six and seven figure verdicts in both state and federal court. He has been recognized by Super Lawyers for six years straight. He is a member of the Consumer Attorneys of California, American Association for Justice, National Police Accountability Project and Arizona Association of Justice, among other organizations.
Disclaimer: The information on this web site is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, you should contact one of our attorneys and discuss your specific case and issues.