Undercover cops would no longer be immune from prosecution for having sex with prostitutes they’re investigating under a bill that unanimously passed a Senate committee Tuesday.
“This is as succinctly written as anyone could make it. It eliminates the opportunity for those in undercover law enforcement to engage in sexual intercourse with someone they’re investigating,” said Sen. Judy Emmons, R-Sheridan, who sponsored the bill. “We have the dubious distinction of being the last state in the nation to have this law in our books.”
While Emmons said she doesn't believe police are using such tactics — "and they're certainly not trained in it"— it's time for the exemption to end, especially when the Legislature is working so diligently to fight human trafficking in the state.
Michigan is the only state in the nation to still provide immunity from prosecution for undercover cops who have sex with prostitutes during an investigation, said University of Michigan law professor Bridgette Carr, who works with the university's Human Trafficking clinic. The exemption was provided to protect officers as they embarked on sting investigations of prostitution rings.
Emmons' bill would repeal that exemption and subject cops to prostitution-related crimes.
The Senate Judiciary Committee agreed with Chairman Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, noting “As a former sheriff, no modern-day police department would ever allow this. This makes so much sense.”
The state of Hawaii was the last state to do away with the exemption for police in 2014. Emmons said other states beyond Hawaii and Michigan had the law, "so I guess they thought there was a need. But how do you debate this? I don't know how anyone could come out and argue against this."
Carr said she has tried for several years to get the exemption removed, but wasn't successful until this year when she enlisted Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Midland, to introduce a similar bill in the House of Representatives. That bill hasn't had a hearing yet in the House.
Local and State Police have said that sex during an undercover operation is not a tactic that they employ.
The bill — SB 275 — is part of an effort in the Legislature to protect victims of human trafficking and now moves to the full Senate for consideration.