Tuesday, June 01, 2010

State Trafficking Laws

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 was the first piece of federal legislation to address modern-day slavery specifically. It has been reauthorized multiple times, most recently in 2008. Since its enactment, states have implemented their own anti-trafficking legislation, that has been varied in timeliness, scope, and focus; some states have implemented innovative anti-trafficking laws; others have yet to take any concrete action. This month, the writers of HTP report on their own state's legislative efforts.

Meg: Oregon has two different trafficking-related offenses: involuntary servitude and trafficking in persons. "Involuntary servitude" involves forcing another to perform services by means of some kind of threat, and "trafficking" involves involuntary servitude with the addition of financial or other gain by the trafficker as a result of the forced services. Trafficking in persons is a Class B felony, and involuntary servitude can either be a Class B or Class C felony, depending on the severity of the threat or coercion by the offender. Victims of trafficking or involuntary servitude may claim the defense of duress if they are prosecuted for acts performed as a result of the coercion (presumably this refers to prostitution), but apparently they are not immune from prosecution altogether. Engaging in prostitution is a lesser crime (a misdemeanor) than inducing prostitution (a felony). It does not appear that there is an exception for minors. One interesting fact: Oregon passed a law this year that requires the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to distribute information on human trafficking (provided by the Polaris Project) to the establishments it licenses, including stickers with a hotline number that owners will be encouraged to post in a prominent location.

Jenn: Despite being the headquarters of federal government anti-trafficking efforts and numerous national and international anti-trafficking NGOs, the District of Columbia currently lacks an anti-trafficking law. Today, June 1st 2010, though, legislation will go before the City Council of D.C. to address this deficiency. According to Polaris Project, if passed the proposed legislation would "create the crime of human trafficking, covering both labor and sex trafficking, with appropriately severe penalties. It would provide crucial assistance to victims, including access to a victim advocate to develop a safety plan and it would allow civil cases to be brought by a victim against his/her trafficker." Such legislation is an important first step to additional anti-trafficking policy in D.C. to address the realities of slavery in the Nation's Capital.

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