Washington, DC – Today, Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) celebrated the House passage of the Closing the Law Enforcement Consent Loophole Act as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022. The bipartisan legislation, introduced with Congressman David Joyce (R-OH), makes it a crime 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.
The bill was initially introduced in 2018 after media reports emerged 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. 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 Closing the Law Enforcement Consent Loophole Act will also require states that receive grants authorized by the bill to submit information on the number of complaints made to law enforcement agencies regarding an officer engaging in a sexual act with an individual in their custody and the disposition of such cases. The U.S. Attorney General will publish an annual report with this information and the number of complaints made to Federal law enforcement.