/  03.19.2022

A new law, recently passed in Congress, will make it a crime for any federal law enforcement officer to engage in a sexual act with anyone in their custody.

Lawmakers passed the Closing the Law Enforcement Consent Loophole Act as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022. It was created by Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) and introduced with Congressman David Joyce (R-OH), according to a press release issued by Speier’s office.

Not only does the new legislation make it a crime for federal law enforcement officers to engage in a sexual act with anyone in their custody regardless of consent — the legislation also incentivizes states to create similar laws. 

States that receive grants authorized by the bill will be required to document and submit information on the number of complaints regarding officers engaging in a sexual act with an individual in their custody. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland will subsequently publish an annual report with this information and the number of complaints made to Federal law enforcement.

There is no consent when one person is exercising the power of law enforcement and the other is handcuffed or in custody. Today’s passage of my bill closes a dangerous legal loophole that has allowed law enforcement officers to claim consent as a defense against allegations of sexual assault and get away with their crimes,” said Rep. Speier, Co-Chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus. “Sexual assault is the second most common form of police misconduct. Such abuse of power can never be tolerated. My bill ensures that will no longer happen.” 

The bill was first introduced in 2018 after a Buzzfeed report exposed an incident where  a teenager in New York was raped by two police officers in the back of an unmarked police car. 

When the teen reported the rape, a loophole in New York state law allowed the officers to claim the sex was consensual even though the victim was reportedly handcuffed and under their control.

Mic reports at least 29 states dont have laws that prevent police from claiming sex with a detainee was consensual.

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