A bipartisan coalition of 35 Attorneys General, led by General Lynn Fitch (MS) and General Ellen Rosenblum (OR), 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 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. As a result of this and other letters sent by those who prosecute these crimes and work with victims, ALI tabled their planned January 2022 vote and directed Professor Stephen J. Schulhofer to make amendments. Although the new draft made some positive changes, it remained significantly lacking in protections for victims and the general public and continued to limit the ability of prosecutors to seek justice.
As the Attorneys General note in their letter, “the revised draft remains extremely problematic and far out of step with contemporary American law and international protocols. The current proposal will aid offenders and make it more difficult to protect victims and the public, without obviously improving the criminal justice system.”
Specifically, the letter notes the following provisions that continue to raise serious concerns:
• 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.
, Attorney General Fitch and 15 of her fellow Attorneys General issued a statement in opposition to this proposal when the ALI Council recommended these revisions to the full membership for a vote. As she noted then, “The full membership of the ALI will meet to vote on this revised draft in May, and those members have an opportunity to correct what would be a giant step backwards for the prosecution of these sex crimes and the defense of the dignity of the victims.”
The full ALI membership will meet May 16-18 in Washington, D.C., where they will vote on this draft.
The letter was signed by the Attorneys General of Mississippi, Oregon, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virgin Islands, Washington, West Virginia.
A copy of the letter can be found here.