Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and the District of Columbia Attorney General are leading a bi-partisan coalition of 50 attorneys general urging Congress to affirm that all law enforcement agencies retain their traditional authority to fight sex trafficking. In a letter to members of Congress, Attorney General Bondi called for an amendment of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) of 1996 to clarify that states, localities and territories retain authority to investigate and prosecute online facilitators of child sex trafficking. The simple addition this letter proposes will help to ensure that citizens and children are effectively protected throughout the entire country, in all courts. “Florida is a zero-tolerance state for human trafficking and we cannot let anything stop our pursuit of justice for victims of this horrific crime. That is why I am asking Congress to make this simple change to the Communications Decency Act and ensure local law enforcement and prosecutors have the tools they need to lock up human traffickers and save lives,” said Florida Attorney General Bondi.
The letter seeks to affirm the authority of state and local law enforcement—those on the front lines of the battle against the sexual exploitation of children—to investigate and prosecute facilitators of such crimes. The intention of the CDA is to protect children from indecent material online and the CDA was never intended to place online facilitators of child sex trafficking outside the reach of law enforcement; however, according to the bipartisan coalition of attorneys general, the CDA is often 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. In addition to Florida and the District of Columbia, the following states and territories signed onto the letter: 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, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.