BAINBRIDGE – Today, Congressman Dave Joyce announced that he is the first Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives to cosponsor legislation to make it illegal for federal law enforcement officers to have sex with a detainee in their custody, and claim the encounter was consensual. Introduced by Rep. Jackie Speier (CA-14), H.R. 1574, the Closing the Law Enforcement Consent Loophole Act, would 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. The term “color of law” refers to an appearance of legal power to act that may operate in violation of the law.
“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,” said Joyce. “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. This dangerous loophole allows bad actors in law enforcement to claim consent as a viable defense against accusations of sexual assault and rape, and it must be closed.”
Importantly, H.R. 1574 would 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.
In 2003, Congress unanimously passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act. Since then, all 50 states have since criminalized custodial sexual conduct between prison or parole officers and their inmates or parolees, deeming them legally unable to consent to sexual contact with their custodians. However, the same cannot be said for federal law enforcement officers or police officers in numerous states. As of H.R. 1574’s introduction in the U.S. House of Representatives, 30 states had not moved to criminalize sexual encounters between an officer and an individual in his/her custody.
“The law should be an equalizing force in our country, and those who are in charge of enforcing it wield an immense amount of power,” said Joyce. “As I learned long ago when I became a prosecutor, with great power comes great responsibility. I’m proud to be the first Republican in the House to co-sponsor this important legislation and strongly urge my conservative colleagues to join me in reaching across the aisle to increase accountability in our justice system.”
Joyce, a former prosecutor, has long fought to eradicate crimes of sexual violence. In the 115th Congress, Joyce helped found the House’s Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence, which he co-chairs with Reps. Jackie Speier (CA-14), Annie Kuster (NH-02) and John Katko (NY-24). To learn more about how the Task Force is raising awareness about the harsh realities of sexual violence, supporting the victims of these heinous crimes and cracking down on those who commit them, click here.