CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has joined a 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.
In a letter to Congress, the bipartisan group of attorneys general ask representatives to amend the Communications Decency Act (CDA) to confirm that states, localities and territories retain authority to investigate and prosecute facilitators of child sex trafficking wherever they operate, including online. The addition to the CDA proposed in this letter will help to ensure that citizens and children are effectively protected throughout the entire country, Morrisey says.
“Federal enforcement alone has proved insufficient to stem the growth in online promotion of child sex trafficking,” the letter states. “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.
“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 AGs say the intent of the CDA is to protect children from indecent material online and that it was never intended to place facilitators of child sex trafficking outside the reach of law enforcement.
In their letter, the AGs address concerns that the CDA is being used as a shield by those who profit from prostitution and crimes against children. In some cases, the AGs say 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.
West Virginia joined the effort, led by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and District of Columbia Attorney General Karl A. Racine, along with attorneys general from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, 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, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.