Police officers in Hawaii will be allowed to go undercover with prostitutes - in more ways than one - if an amended bill is given the green light by the island's senate committee.
An amendment to a bill aimed at cracking down on prostitution will allow undercover cops in the 50th state to have sex with prostitutes, if it is in the line of duty.
Authorities argued that they need the legal protection in place in order to catch lawbreakers in the act, AP reported.
Critics - including expert Derek Marsh, who trains California police in best practices on human trafficking cases - say that police can easily do their jobs without the legal exemption, which further victimises prostitutes.
"It doesn't help your case and, at worst, you further traumatise someone. And do you think he or she is going to trust a cop again?" asked Marsh.
Lauren Hersh, a former prosecuting attorney who runs the global trafficking program of the women's advocacy group Equality Now, said the risk of re-victimising sex workers should make sex during an investigation off-limits.
"I can understand you're in a drug den, and you have a gun to your head and someone says 'snort this'. But the sex exemption in Hawaii is so dissimilar from that circumstance on so many levels," she said.
Melissa Farley, the executive director of the San Francisco-based group Prostitution Research and Education, said "police abuse is part of the life of prostitution".
Women who have escaped prostitution commonly report being forced to give police sexual favours, or risk being arrested and/or harassed, Farley added.
But Michelle Yu, Honolulu police spokeswoman, said vice officers who investigate prostitution haven't been accused of sexual wrongdoing in recent memory and many remain unconvinced about the necessity of this law exemption.
"I don't know of any state or federal law that allows any law enforcement officer undercover to penetrate or do what this law is allowing," retired special agent Roger Young said.