Cruise Ship Sexual Assault Cases

Areas of Practice


Cruise Ship Sexual Assault & Rape

The Reality of Criminal Prosecution for Sexual Assaults Aboard Ships

Criminal jurisdiction – that is, the ability for a particular court to exercise criminal punishment authority over a case – exists on cruise vessels, but it is intricate and usually involves a number of states or countries at the same time. Depending on where a vessel is located at the time of the criminal incident on the high seas, United States courts might have the right to exercise some level of jurisdiction over the case.

If a victim of a crime on the high seas is a U.S. citizen, for example, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) may be the lead investigating law enforcement agency. However, other nations may have jurisdiction as well. Because of the complexities of international law, law enforcement may not arrive on a vessel at sea until its next port call. International law and cooperative efforts to respond often drastically slow the response time. In the meantime, critical hours or days may have elapsed since the crime occurred. Evidence is often lost and little can be done by the time the police finally arrive. Cases disintegrate from an evidentiary standpoint.

As a practical matter, therefore, criminal law enforcement is largely ineffectual in a cruise ship sexual assault matter. Even victims of straightforward statutory rape cruise ship cases rarely see justice because of the practical complexities of coordinating law enforcement investigations with an appropriate agency and the movement of a ship.

This pattern is endemic. During research for a case, our law firm discovered that out of 174 complaints of sexual assault or rape not one single person had been prosecuted. These complaints happened within a four year period on the vessels of a major cruise line.

One particular statutory rape cruise ship case highlights the seriousness of this problem. The facts of the case reveal that while the ship was in docked Port Canaveral, Florida in August 2012, an employee of a major cruise line was caught on his ship’s surveillance cameras molesting an 11-year-old passenger in an onboard elevator. The incident was reported to security within minutes, yet two hours after the incident the ship left port without notifying local police. The employee, who was eventually sent home on a company paid flight from the Bahamas, never faced prosecution.

This example is hardly the exception.

Obtaining Justice for Those Harmed

Victims can usually seek justice in courts of civil jurisdiction, usually in the form of money damages. The reality is that pursuing a civil action with a cruise lawyer is often the only recourse of many criminal cases that occur on the high seas. At Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A, our attorneys have years of practical experience navigating the jurisdictional complexities of a civil damages case. We are determined to help our clients seek justice wherever possible if they have been the victim of sexual assault.

Our cruise ship injury lawyer app provides an invaluable resource in the event that the unexpected happens. It is free to download and provides resources to use in the event of an assault, such as response checklists and a means to preserve photos, videos, audio recordings, notes and more. Download our app at no cost from iTunes or the Android Marketplace.

You can also embark on your trip better prepared by reading a copy of the e-book, “Unsafe on the High Seas,” written by one of our own cruise ship attorneys, Charles R. Lipcon. Attorney Lipcon’s book, which has enjoyed a place among’s top 30 travel books, is available for download on the Kindle and other reading devices.

Our cruise ship attorneys are determined to help our clients seek justice wherever possible when raped on cruise. Take a look at some of our actual cases in this area and let us put our experience to work for you.

More about Cruise Ship Rape Law & How We Can Help:

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Unsafe on the High Seas by Charles Lipcon

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