|Posted:||January 11, 2018 10:51 AM|
|From:||Representative Seth M. Grove|
|To:||All House members|
|Subject:||Combating Human Trafficking in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania|
|In 2016, the number of reported cases involving human trafficking in the United States jumped by 35%. Despite the belief of many that human trafficking is a problem which exists only in third world countries, this problem is a hidden epidemic affecting many of our communities. The National Human Trafficking Hotline reported there were 152 potential cases of trafficking in the commonwealth during 2016.
These cases, which often go unreported or underreported, were not limited First or Second-Class cities as trafficking cases were found in, among other cities, York, Lancaster, Harrisburg, State College, Erie, Williamsport, Altoona and Allentown. The widespread nature of this crime, which robs an individual of their basic human rights, is more abhorrent by the fact the average age of a victim of sex trafficking or sex slavery is between 12-14 years old.
In order to address this hidden problem, I plan to introduce legislation which builds on the reforms of Act 105 of 2014 using successful policies adopted by the state of Tennessee and Louisiana. The legislation would make the penalty for trafficking an individual into sex slavery from a 2nd degree felony to a 1st degree felony. Likewise, an individual who patronizes a victim of sexual trafficking would now face a 1st degree felony charge. In addition, those who patronize a victim of sexual trafficking would see an increased fine from $500 to between $1,000 and $30,000 at the discretion of the court. If the victim is a minor at the time of the offense, the fine is increased to a minimum of $5,000 and a maximum of $100,000. The legislation also requires an individual who patronizes a victim of sex trafficking register as a sex offender.
Additionally, in light of the connection between prostitution and human trafficking, the legislation also increases the fine for repeat offenders of those patronizing prostitutes. This begins by setting an additional fine for a second-time offender of at least $1,000, but no more than $20,000. A third-time offender would see an additional fine of at least $5,000 but no more than $30,000. A fourth-time offender would see an additional fine of at least $10,000 but no more than $50,000. Similar to the requirement on any individual who knowingly patronizes a victim of sex trafficking, those who are caught patronizing a prostitute are required to register as a sex offender. By strengthening the fines associated with patronizing prostitutes and requiring those engage in the practice to register as sex offenders, the commonwealth can reduce trafficking cases in a manner similar to Tennessee and Louisiana.
The legislation also allows for prosecutors to use forfeiture process to seize and sell the assets or proceeds from a trafficker and use them to fund grants which help local law enforcement better recognize sex trafficking cases. This change to current law not only will reduce trafficking cases, but assist law enforcement in rescuing victims who are trapped in the sex trade.
Finally, this bill will help protect victims of sex trafficking under the age of 18 who are required to testify against a sex trafficker. The victim may, at the court’s discretion, testify outside the court room. This provision is utilized by other states to protect victims from further mental or emotional trauma caused by seeing the trafficker in court. Pennsylvania currently has a provision allowing children under the age of 16 this protection however, this legislation would amend the law to allow all minors the same protection.
Human trafficking represents a violation of an individual’s basic human rights and happens way too often in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. I ask that you join me and co-sponsor this legislation to make Pennsylvania leader in combatting this vile trade. Should you have any questions please contact Jordan Grant by email at Jgrant@pahousegop.com
Introduced as HB2029