INDIANAPOLIS – A bipartisan bill at the Statehouse would close a loophole in Indiana’s child seduction law.
Child seduction is a charge often applied in crimes when an adult in a position of trust or authority engages in sexual contact with a child under age 18.
Right now, the law includes youth sports coaches employed by a school but does not say anything about coaches in leagues not connected to a school district.
“We do not believe that it’s a widespread problem in Indiana, but we know that any place that adults are interacting with young people in a position of authority, they’re vulnerable,” said Beth White, president and CEO of the Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault and Human Trafficking.
State Rep. Maureen Bauer (D-South Bend) has introduced House Bill 1228, which would ensure any coach can be charged. It would create new criminal penalties if the child is age 16 or older and enhance penalties if the child is under age 16.
“I think the ultimate goal is to protect all children no matter where they decide to play sports,” Bauer said.
Child seduction carries a minimum charge of a level 5 or 6 felony in Indiana but can be elevated to as high as a level 1 felony, depending on the circumstances.
Prosecutors say they believe the bill adds needed protections amid the growth of youth sports leagues.
“The way the statute was written is the lack of employment by a school would have been a potential defense to a prosecution under the statute,” explained Brent Eaton, Hancock County prosecutor. “And this closes that loophole.”
An amendment was approved in a Senate committee Tuesday adding work supervisors to the legislation as adults who could be charged.
The bill passed in the House unanimously, but the Indiana Public Defender Council remains opposed.
Zach Stock, who testified Tuesday, argued the law is becoming too complex.
“I think we really need to rework this child seduction statute to make it more general to [State] Sen. [Rodney] Pol’s point about trying to identify the undue influence, define it appropriately to catch more people in advance instead of this after-the-fact listing of people,” Stock said.
After receiving unanimous approval in committee Tuesday, the bill now heads to the Senate floor.