Herring asks Congress to protect authority to prosecute sex trafficking

Attorney General Mark R. Herring joined a bipartisan coalition of 50 state and territorial attorneys general in urging Congress to affirm that all law-enforcement agencies retain their traditional authority to fight sex trafficking.

mark herringIn a letter to Congress, the attorneys general ask representatives to amend the Communications Decency Act (CDA) to clarify that states, localities and territories retain the authority to investigate and prosecute facilitators of child sex trafficking wherever they operate, including online. Under the current CDA, some courts have ruled that states are pre-empted from enforcing criminal laws that can help keep children and citizens safe. The simple word addition to the CDA proposed in this letter will help to ensure that everyone is effectively protected throughout the entire country, in all courts.

“Nothing is more important than the safety of our children, and my team is working tirelessly across the Commonwealth utilizing groundbreaking technology to increase prosecutions and investigations, and put child predators behind bars,” said Attorney General Herring. “I hope Congress can see how important the work we’re doing is and will amend the Communications Decency Act to ensure we have the authority to continue it.”

“Federal enforcement alone has proved insufficient to stem the growth in online promotion of child sex trafficking. Those on the front lines of the battle against the sexual exploitation of children – state and local law enforcement – must have clear authority to investigate and prosecute facilitators of these and other horrible crimes,” reads the letter.

The intention of the CDA is to protect children from indecent material online. It was never was intended to place facilitators of child sex trafficking outside the reach of law enforcement. However, according to the attorneys general, the CDA is being used as a shield by those who profit from prostitution and crimes against children. In some cases, courts have interpreted certain provisions of the CDA to provide immunity from state prosecution to online classified ad sites, such as Backpage.com, that promote and profit from human trafficking.

“It is both ironic and tragic that the CDA, which was intended to protect children from indecent material on the Internet, is now used as a shield by those who profit from prostitution and crimes against children,” the attorneys general wrote.

To view the letter, click here.

Joining Attorney General Herring in signing the letter are the attorneys general of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Attorney General Herring has made combating child exploitation and sex trafficking a priority during his term, increasing prosecutions, investigations, and investments in technology that can keep Virginia children safe from predators. During his administration, Attorney General Herring and his team of prosecutors have brought charges against nearly 250 perpetrators, securing jail sentences of nearly 500 years, and have examined more than 2,000 computers, phones, and other devices in about 400 cases.


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