Michigan makes it illegal for undercover police to have sex with prostitutes they are investigating

Mythili Sampathkumar
Undercover law enforcement can now be prosecuted for engaging in sex with sex workers they are investigating

Undercover police in Michigan can longer legally engage in sexual intercourse with sex workers they are investigating, according to a new state senate bill.

The bill makes it possible for these law enforcement officers to be prosecuted “if the officer engaged in sexual penetration while in the course of his or her duties.”

It is not a common tactic used by undercover police, according to local and state officials.

The exemption from prosecution for undercover police officers was meant “to protect officers as they embarked on sting investigations of prostitution rings,” the Detroit Free Press reported.

Unanimously approved, the bill was sponsored by Republican State Senator Judy Emmons who told the Detroit Free Press that Michigan has “the dubious distinction of being the last state in the nation to have this law in our books.”

The last state to end such an exemption was Hawaii in 2014.

Ms Emmons said: “How do you debate this? I don't know how anyone could come out and argue against this”. The bill is part of an effort of the state to provide more protection for human trafficking victims.

In many states however, prostitutes – even if they are actually human trafficking victims – still do not actually have to engage in a sex act to be arrested for solicitation.

International human rights lawyer and advocate for victims of human trafficking Mary Katherine Burke told The Independent said she does not understand why it took so long for the state to pass the law, but considers it a win for victims' advocates.

Ms Burke said she has heard several stories of victims being “bought” by police.

“I've heard of stories of adult sex workers being detained by law enforcement and having them offer to release the sex worker without arresting or charging if the sex worker performs some sort of act... and then arresting the sex worker on prostitution charges anyway,” she said.

When police engage in sex with these victims while investigating them it is “antithetical to the whole idea of victim services,” said Ms Burke.