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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: December 21, 2018 04:15 PM
From: Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill
To: All Senate members
Subject: The Buyer Beware Act: Combating Human Trafficking in Pennsylvania
Human trafficking is defined as “the action or practice of illegally transporting people from one country or area to another, typically for the purposes of forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation.” Since 2007, the National Human Trafficking Hotline has received more than thirty-seven hundred human trafficking-related calls from Pennsylvania. Case files were created on more than 900 of them, and more than 800 of those were considered high levels of human trafficking. The average age a child is forced into sex slavery is 12 years old. More than 300 human trafficking cases were reported last year in Pennsylvania and Maryland combined.

These cases, which often go unreported or underreported, were not limited to First or Second-Class cities. Trafficking cases were found in areas such as 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 that 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 and Act 130 of 2018. This legislation is intended to shift the focus of state law from punishing the victims of trafficking to punishing those who traffic individuals and those who would buy sex from them. The bill accomplishes this by expanding the definition of trafficking under the Crimes Code to match federal law. The expanded definition will now include any individual who patronizes or advertises a victim of trafficking. Additionally, the legislation mirrors federal law by expanding the offense for patronizing a victim of trafficking to include any person who should have known or acted with reckless disregard to the fact the individual was victim of human trafficking.

This legislation would also double the amount of maximum jail time that an individual may serve for trafficking or patronizing a victim of trafficking. Currently these crimes are 2nd degree felony charges carrying a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in prison. The bill upgrades these to a 1st degree felony, carrying a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in prison. 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.

Recognizing the connection between prostitution and human trafficking, this 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. These additional fines are to be split evenly between the grants under Section 3031 and the Fund for Sexually Exploited Children.

Human trafficking represents a violation of an individual’s basic human rights and unfortunately this happens way too often in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. As William Wilberforce, who fought slavery in 19th Century Europe said, “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say that you did not know.” I ask that you join me and co-sponsor this legislation to make Pennsylvania a leader in combatting this horrific trade.

Introduced as SB60