(Support trusted journalism like this in Michigan. Give what you can here.)
Michigan has a law on the books that grants the police immunity from prosecution if they’ve had sex with a prostitute during an investigation.
Michigan is the only remaining state we know of which still grants that immunity, but that might change.
Bridgette Carr, a professor and director of the Human Trafficking Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School, is working with Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Midland, to draft a bill that would get rid of that exemption.
Carr first became aware of the exemption a couple of years ago, when Hawaii was “phasing out their exemption.”
“And a number of folks in the human trafficking community were upset that Michigan retained the exemption,” she said.
That's because it maintained the possibility for people to have sex with human trafficking victims in the commercial sex industry without facing punishment.
Carr said she does not believe the law was created with any bad intent.
“The reason the law is structured the way it is is because of the way the prostitution laws are written,” she said. “So for law enforcement to have any power to investigate with immunity, they got all the power. And no one thought to go back and carve out a prohibition against sexual intercourse.”
Some police officers know about this exemption and some don’t, Carr said. But none of the officers or prosecutors she talked to said they take advantage of the exemption.
“No police officer or prosecutor that I spoke with said, ‘That’s a tool that we use in our training or that’s what we expect our law enforcement to be doing,’” she said.
As officers aren’t aware of this law and as they aren’t taught to use it, some ask why it’d be useful to change the law at all.
“What I do know from my own clients is that people who either say they are cops, who are cops or who are impersonating cops, know about this exemption and threaten my clients with it sometimes,” she said. “It’s not rampant, but it happens. And I think it says something about us as a community that we would allow this type of exemption for law enforcement, whether it’s used very often or not.”
For the full interview, listen above.