Here Is the New Jersey Bill That Would Criminalize Lying to Get Sex
Last December, New Jersey Assemblyman Troy Singleton introduced a bill that raised eyebrows: It would create the crime of sexual assault by fraud. Lying for the purposes of getting sex would now be against the law.
The bill attracted attention (of the negative variety) across the political spectrum. “His law is so vague and wide-reaching that it’s easy to see how pretty much everyone could be considered a rapist,” Amanda Marcotte wrote at Slate,” because, as any quick perusing of OkCupid can tell you, representing yourself as someone you are not is a universal behavior.” Reason‘s Elizabeth Nolan Brown agreed: “But giving the state broad discretion to adjudicate lies between lovers would yield a hotbed of unintended consequences, not to mention the (obviously intended, yet despicable) consequence of furthering the creep of law enforcement into all areas of our lives.”
Last week, the Daily News profiled the New Jersey woman who inspired the bill, Mischele Lewis. She met a man on a dating site in 2013 who claimed to be Liam Allen, a secret agent for the U.K. government. In reality, he was William Allen Jordan, a convicted bigamist. Lewis had forked over $5,000 to him for a fake security clearance.
Prosecutors attempted to charge him with sexual assault by coercion, but the grand jury didn’t indict. “I truly believe that we have to look at the issue of rape as more than sexual contact without consent,” Singleton told NJ.com last year. “Fraud invalidates any semblance of consent just as forcible sexual contact does. This legislation is designed to provide our state’s judiciary with another tool to assess situations where this occurs and potentially provide a legal remedy to those circumstances.” Singleton didn’t return a request for comment for this story.
Singleton’s bill doesn’t have any cosponsors, and appears to have little chance of passing. Other states do have sex-by-deception on the books, but they appear to be more limited. “These two exceptions — sex falsely represented as a medical procedure, and impersonation of a woman’s husband — have been for over a hundred years the only generally recognized situations in which Anglo-American courts convict for rape-by-deception,” Jed Rubenfeld wrote in the Yale Law Journal in 2013. Rubenfeld writes the spousal-impersonation crime is the law in 14 states. Joyce Short, who wrote a book called Carnal Abuse by Deceit: How a Predator’s Lies Became Rape, has a detailed rundown of state-by-state laws.
Read Singleton’s proposed bill below.