Washington, DC – Today, Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) and Congressman David Joyce (R-OH) celebrated the House passage of the Closing the Law Enforcement Consent Loophole Act, which was included in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. The legislation makes it a criminal offense for a federal law enforcement officer to engage in a sexual act with anyone in his or her custody or while exercising their authority under color of law, regardless of consent. The legislation also incentivizes states to have similar laws on the books in order to be eligible for COPS funding.
The bill was initially introduced in 2018 after media reporting about a teenager in New York who was raped by two police officers while in their custody 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 despite the fact that the victim was handcuffed and under their control.
“There is no consent when one person is exercising the power of law enforcement and the other is handcuffed or in custody. My bill would close a dangerous legal loophole that has allowed law enforcement officers to claim consent as a defense against accusations of sexual assault,” Rep. Speier said. “Sexual abuse is the second most common form of police misconduct, and such abuse of power can never be tolerated. I urge the Senate to swiftly take up the House-passed George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which includes this important provision.”
“While it’s illegal in Ohio, federal law enforcement officers, as well as police officers in the majority of states, can claim a sexual encounter with someone in their custody was consensual,” Rep. Joyce said. “As there is an inherent imbalance of power and authority between an officer and detainee, there is no situation in which consent could be distinguished from coercion. I’m proud to work across the aisle with Rep. Speier to close this dangerous loophole and increase accountability in our justice system by preventing bad actors in law enforcement from claiming consent as a viable defense against accusations of sexual assault and rape.”
The Closing the Law Enforcement Consent Loophole Act will also require states to submit information on the number of complaints made to law enforcement agencies regarding an officer engaging in a sexual act with any individual that meets the above description to the U.S. Attorney General on an annual basis. Those reports will then be sent to Congress for review.