AGs Fitch (MS) leads bipartisan coalition challenging efforts to weaken laws against human trafficking and sexual abuse, assault, and exploitation.
This week, Attorneys General Lynn Fitch (MS) and Ellen Rosenbaum (OR) led a bipartisan coalition of 35 Attorneys General in writing a letter to urge the American Law Institute (ALI) to reject amendments that leave victims of sex crimes vulnerable and put children at risk.
The bipartisan coalition asks ALI to reject proposed changes to Section 213 of the Model Penal Code (MPC) that would weaken the ability to prosecute sexual assault, abuse, exploitation, and trafficking crimes; jeopardize the safety of victims of these crimes; and restrict the ability of law enforcement to protect the general public from recidivist behavior.
“With these amendments, the ALI is reversing years of progress made in prosecuting sex trafficking and sexual assault, abuse, and exploitation,” said Attorney General Lynn Fitch. “They handcuff prosecutors, ignore the needs of victims, and dismiss the input of those of us who work in criminal justice and with victims of crime. The members of the ALI should reject these amendments, which do far more harm than good.
On December 9, 2021, a bipartisan coalition of 37 Attorneys General outlined serious objections to ALI’s proposed amendments to Article 213 of the Model Penal Code: Sexual Assault and Related Offenses.
The Attorneys General state in the letter that the revised draft remains extremely problematic and far out of step with contemporary American law and international protocols. They argue that the current proposal will aid offenders and make it more difficult to protect victims and the public, without obviously improving the criminal justice system.
The 35 Attorneys General said that they are also concerned with the rushed nature of this most current draft.
“The Council has been working on these revisions for 10 years, but publicly posted the most recent draft on April 25, 2022, a mere 3 weeks before the scheduled final vote before the entire Council,” the letter said. “We strongly implore the ALI to table the vote on these sections. ALI should consult policy makers, prosecutors and especially survivors in the drafting of this new version of the Code. Our prior letter objected in part to the way that the proposed changes “silence survivor voices.” The hasty process by which this latest revision was produced, and the short timeframe on which ALI proposes to adopt it, has done nothing to assuage that concern.”
- Many trafficking offenses will be extremely difficult to prove because they require states to demonstrate not only that a defendant knowingly engaged in unlawful conduct, but that the defendant also specifically knew that the particular offense involved a trafficked person.
- The sex offender registry would still not be generally available to the public.
- Incestuous sexual assault would still only be a registrable sex offense when the minor victim is under 16 years old.
- Failure to register as a sex offender would be a misdemeanor offense, which may not be appropriate in all states.
- Persons under the age of 18 would not be required to register even if the offender was convicted as an adult, with only one exception.
- The registration requirement would be capped at a maximum of 15 years.
The full ALI membership will meet May 16-18 in Washington, D.C., where they will vote on this draft.
You can read the full letter to ALI below.