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37 Attorneys General urge ALI to reject amendments that leave victims of sex crimes vulnerable

Image courtesy of DoSomething.org

A bipartisan coalition of 37 Attorneys General, led by Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch and Hawaii Attorney General Clare Connors, wrote a letter to the American Law Institute (ALI) urging them to reject proposed changes to Section 213 of the Model Penal Code (MPC) that would weaken the ability of States 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.

“As Attorneys General, we urge the ALI to consider the danger the proposed changes would pose to the public, especially children, and abandon its plans to amend this article of the Model Penal Code …,” wrote the Attorneys General. “The revisions contemplated fail to treat sex predators appropriately and would provide them more freedom to commit these heinous crimes, putting the citizens we represent at greater risk of becoming victims.” “The ALI’s proposed revisions take giant steps backwards in the fight to protect our most
vulnerable from becoming victims of sexual abuse and exploitation,” said Attorney General Lynn Fitch. “The ALI is turning its back on the progress we are making in the fight to shut down the multi-billion-dollar, international criminal enterprise of sex trafficking, and ignoring the reality that increased digitalization of our lives leaves children and others increasingly at risk of becoming the victims of sex predators through the anonymity of the Internet.”

“This letter reflects our department’s long-standing commitment to safeguarding the community by ensuring our laws protect victims and support effective investigation and prosecution of these crimes,” said Attorney General Clare Connors. “The changes proposed by the American Law Institute will both reverse the progress we have made to hold sex traffickers accountable and increase the harm to victims of sexual offenses. Laws that favor bad actors at the expense of victims must be soundly rejected.”

Among the changes being considered by the ALI:

Regarding Sex Trafficking
• Removes “advertising” and “obtains” as predicate acts that can be used to establish trafficking.
• Excludes criminal liability for those who knowingly benefit from their participation in sex trafficking.
• Requires Government prove buyer knew, but recklessly disregarded, fact that victim was under 18 years old.
• Mandates identifying a trafficker to establish crime of child sex trafficking has occurred.
• Excludes criminal liability for sex trafficking for buyers of commercial sex with minors.

Regarding Sex Offender Registries
• Removes the following crimes as offenses that require registration:
• Kidnapping and attempted kidnapping
• Online enticement
• Sex trafficking
• Child sexual abuse material crimes (possession/distribution/production of child pornography)
• Sexual assault of minors older than 12 years of age
• Sexual assaults that do not involve force or restraint
• Would permit only government law enforcement agencies to access registry information – there would be no public access and no access by non-profit organizations for prospective employees/applicants.
• Removes key identifiers from registry requirements, including:
• Date of birth
• Fingerprints and palm prints
• DNA sample
• Driver’s license/identification card information
• Passport information (which would eviscerate provisions of International Megan’s Law)
• Internet identifiers
• Offenses of sexual assault by physical force or sexual assault of an incapacitated person are not registrable – offenders are required to register only if the offender was previously convicted of a felony sexual offense.
• Registration for sexual assault of a minor is limited to crimes where the victim is less than 12 years old, and the offender is 21 years old or older.
• Registration for incestuous sexual assault of a minor is limited to crimes where the victim is under the age of 16 years old.
• Renders failure to register a misdemeanor.

The letter was signed by the Attorneys General of Mississippi, Hawaii, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virgin Islands, Virginia, and West Virginia.

A copy of the letter can be found here.

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