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Highway Patrol Trooper in Oklahoma Faces Jail Time for Sexually Assaulting a Female Truck Driver

Published by Tamar Hela.

Highway Patrol Trooper in Oklahoma Faces Jail Time for Sexually Assaulting a Female Truck Driver

Thousands of truck drivers hit the road daily. They are many of the cogs running the nation's economy. But trucking is a challenging job. Danger may lurk in every corner, both human and environmental.

And when you're a female trucker, the danger doubles. As one female trucker has experienced, the unthinkable happened: a sexual assault on her by a law enforcement officer. Instead of protecting the trucker's safety, a highway patrol officer became her nightmare.

Follow the story of the highway patrol trooper in Oklahoma who is now facing jail time for sexually assaulting a female truck driver. Plus, learn what truckers can do to keep themselves safe on the road.


Oklahoma Police Predator vs. Female Trucker

In March, Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper Jackie Rhinehart (52) stopped a truck for speeding. The 2021 Freightliner tractor-trailer was stopped on Interstate 44 one hour past midnight. Rhinehart spoke with the driver, who turned out to be a 58-year-old Hispanic female. (The truck driver remains unnamed.)

Court records painted a creepy picture of Rhinehart making a silent gesture to the driver, which was interpreted as wanting her to get to the sleeper cab of the trailer. Beginning to feel uneasy, the trucker guessed that Rhinehart wanted to have sexual intercourse with her.

The trooper took her driver's license and other papers back to his car, where he seemed to prepare a warning notice. Meanwhile, the female trucker waited in the tractor-trailor's cab, where she felt scared for her safety and well-being. She thought of calling 911 but her fear of the consequences from the trooper made her cancel her intention.

The trucker said to investigators that she believed to be safer outside of the cab. She moved to the passenger seat. Later, when Rhinehart returned for another interaction, she had no choice but to exit the cab.

The arrest warrant stated Rhinehart then began moving his hips from side to side and rubbing against the woman's legs. They communicated in whispers; the trooper pointed to his chest several times, which she interpreted as for her to be aware of what she was saying because he had a body camera on and it was recording. Rhinehart even said the word "camera" twice.

Rhinehart turned off his dashboard camera and put his patrol vehicle away from the camera's view. He approached the driver's side of the tractor-trailer, telling the trucker to move to the passenger side. Then, the woman claimed he kissed her and wanted to perform a sex act on him. According to court records, he made the female trucker perform oral sex on him.

The aftermath

The entire incident was later uncovered by a higher-up in the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. An OHP supervisor performed a routine check of the dashcam video, showing Rhinehart making a traffic stop on duty. But the camera showed some questionable behavior by Rhinehart, launching a thorough investigation of the incident.

The OHP decided to look for the female truck driver. When they got in touch with her, she told them what happened. Weeks later, the OHP interviewed the female trucker. Rhinehart's unusual behavior was explained.

Tim Tipton, the commissioner of the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety, said Rhinehart was terminated for this act. "As soon as we discovered the potential for criminal or unethical behavior, our agency took swift action," Tipton said in a statement. "Rhinehart's behavior is deplorable and has no place within the organization."

Rhinehart, a veteran in OHP for 25 years, was charged in Craig County District Court with sexual battery and forcible sodomy. Both are felonies, so Rhinehart might be jailed. But he was released on a $50,000 bail. Not so surprisingly, he has a previous record of disciplinary actions against him.

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What Dangers Truck Drivers Can Meet on the Road

There are a lot of challenges for truckers in their job. Long operational hours. The vehicle size. Unfriendly road conditions due to weather. They all force truckers to be vigilant at all times. Here's a list of what dangers they can meet while trucking:

  • Blind spots: Large trucks have significant blind spots. It happens when the truck drivers can't see other cars, thanks to the size of their trucks. Maneuvering without paying attention to blind spots can be dangerous.
  • Distracted driving: Drivers who get distracted by their phones or sleepiness can have slower reaction times. When distracted, they can get into accidents.
  • Fatigue: Fatigue plagues every trucker, especially those who don't take regular breaks. They risk having accidents. For safety reasons, breaks are essential to maintain alertness.
  • Adverse weather: Terrible weather can worsen road conditions and impair visibility. Vehicle handling may become difficult. Things like rain, snow, and fog pose a great threat to truckers.
  • Poor road conditions: Even when the weather is nice, uneven road surfaces and potholes threaten the safety of truckers. Commercial trucks are even more at risk because of their high center of gravity.
  • Poor vehicle maintenance: Vehicle inspections are a must for trucks doing frequent trips. They will pinpoint potential issues and address them before they become problems on the road. The entire braking system, for example, is of particular concern.

In 2019,5,005 large trucks were involved in fatal crashes. This number increased by 2% from the previous year. These fatal incidents once again raise the issue of road safety.

Regular training on defensive driving techniques and the correct use of safety devices like seat belts can reduce these incidents. Truck drivers should also receive training about their rights and how to deal with potential legal challenges.

Truckers running into trouble with law enforcement

Like all drivers, truck drivers are also subject to the law. They must comply with the many regulations specific to the trucking industry and road safety. The following problems can lead to an uncomfortable encounter with law enforcement.

  • Traffic violations
  • Failure to carry proper documentation
  • Not meeting equipment standards
  • Substance abuse

Truck drivers may assert their rights during interactions with law enforcement. But they must know the appropriate steps to take. Providing requested documentation and remaining calm and respectful can keep the situation from escalating.

If drivers are aware of their rights, and they are certain they're being unfairly treated, they can seek legal counsel after complying with the immediate instructions of the officers.

Are female truckers less safe than their male counterpart?

All truck drivers face safety risks. However, female truckers have gender-specific concerns about the threats they may receive. Sexual assault is one of these concerns. The data on the prevalence of such events is still limited, but reports suggest these concerns are not unfounded.

Sexual assault, including harassment and physical violence, has been reported by female truckers. More frequently, the perpetrator is another driver or someone in a position of authority. Less frequently, the assault is carried out by members of law enforcement agencies. Sadly, these incidents are underreported due to fear of not being believed or possible retaliation.

This matter still requires attention from the industry, where supportive reporting procedures have yet to be widely established. Still, companies can contribute to the safety of female truckers by taking the following steps:

  • Providing sexual harassment training
  • Creating clear reporting protocols
  • Promoting a respectful culture of safety for all employees

Female truckers can also benefit from having access to resources that support them in difficult situations. Emergency hotlines and safety networks will help them immensely. The trucking industry must be able to work towards providing a more secure environment for all its workers.


Stay Vigilant

Cases like the harassment of a female trucker by an Oklahoma Highway Patrol Officer may be few and far between. But it can still happen again in the future.

With all the other challenges truckers face, assault and harassment by law enforcers are adding to the burden truck drivers carry. The whole industry and the federal government should take notice and step up to maintain their safety.

For more road news, check out A1 Auto Transport's blog. We prioritize safety on the road when delivering your vehicles and we keep you updated on the industry trends.

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Tamar Hela is one of our featured writers at A-1 Auto Transport, researching everything from AI auto shipments out of China to what paperwork is required to move long distance. We can safely say she's become well versed in all things shipping and logistics while making the information easy to digest and understandable. 

Tamar has been a copywriter for over 16 years and was trained in the 7-Figure Copywriting Accelerator course through American Writers & Artists, Inc. (AWAI). She's also an incredibly seasoned copyeditor, having previously been the Chief Editor and Publishing Director for Cosby Media Productions, based in Atlanta, Georgia. 

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