Washington, DC – Today, Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) celebrated the House passage of the bipartisan Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization of 2019 (VAWA), which included her bill H.R. 1574, the Closing the Law Enforcement Consent Loophole Act. H.R. 1574 will make 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.
Rep. Speier introduced her bill after reading 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 she was handcuffed and under their control.
“Though the state of New York has since closed this loophole, a staggering 30 states still allow officers to have sex with people in their custody if they claim it was consensual. Shockingly, this also remains a viable defense for federal law enforcement officers. My common sense bill will finally close this ludicrous loophole and crack down on sexual predators hiding behind the shield,” Rep. Speier said. “Law enforcement officers wield an incredible amount of power and deserve our respect but abuse of that power can never be tolerated. I urge the Senate to swiftly take up the House-passed VAWA legislation, which includes this important provision.”
“There is no consent when one person is exercising the power of law enforcement and the other is handcuffed, in custody, in the back of a cop car. Our provision would close a dangerous legal loophole that allows law enforcement officers to claim consent as a defense against accusations of sexual assault and rape. The entire Violence Against Woman Act – including this essential provision – should be taken up by the Senate and signed into law as soon as possible.” Senator Blumenthal said.
“Today’s passage marks an important step toward ensuring our justice system is more fair, more accountable, and more just,” Sen. Booker said. “I’m grateful for the painstaking work by selfless stakeholders and committed advocates who have worked relentlessly to champion this bill. Federal agents and law enforcement officers who abuse their power by sexually assaulting individuals in their custody shouldn’t be shielded from accountability because of a loophole in federal law.”
Rep. Speier’s bill will also provide the incentive of additional Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) grant-funding to states that adopt similar laws for state and local law enforcement agencies and submit information on how many complaints of this nature are made to law enforcement agencies to the Department of Justice.
Click here for a copy of Rep. Speier’s bill.