Mountain Democrat

Oct 15, 2012   

Yes to Proposition 35

Proposition 35, the Human Trafficking and Penalties Initiative, for the most part brings state sex trafficking and labor trafficking laws up to par with federal laws.

It expands the definition of human trafficking, imposes fines for a victims’ fund, changes how evidence can be used against trafficking victims and requires training for law enforcement.

Here are the details of the differences:

• Current labor trafficking convictions carry a five-year sentence. This measure increases it to 12 years.

• Current forced sex trafficking of an adult convictions carry an eight-year sentence. This measure boosts that to 20 years.

• Current unforced sex trafficking of a minor is covered under different laws. Under this law the penalty would be 12 years in prison.

• Current law on forced sex trafficking of a minor carries an eight-year penalty. This measure would make it a life term.

• Enhancements for great bodily injury would increase from six years to 10 years.

• Enhancements for prior sex trafficking convictions would be five years for each prior conviction.

• Fines would increase from $100,000 for sex trafficking with a minor to $1.5 million for all trafficking offenses.

As written by the Legislative Analyst Office, the measure affects court proceedings in the following way: “Specifically, the measure prohibits the use of evidence that a person was involved in criminal sexual conduct (such as prostitution) to prosecute that person for that crime if the conduct was a result of being a victim of human trafficking. The measure also makes evidence of sexual conduct by a victim of human trafficking inadmissible for the purposes of attacking the victim’s credibility or character in court. In addition, this measure disallows certain defenses in human trafficking cases involving minors. For example, a defendant could not claim as a defense being unaware of the minor’s age.”

This section may be subject to legal challenge as being contrary to the Rules of Evidence as well as the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution ensuring the accused the right “to be confronted with witnesses against him” and the 14th Amendment’s “equal protection of the laws” clause.

But overall we agree with the major goal of the proposition to add more emphasis to labor and sex trafficking prosecution and bring it more in line with federal laws.

Those convicted would also be required to provide to local law enforcement any e-mail and other Internet identities, assuming they are not already in prison for a long time. The Mountain Democrat supports Proposition 35.

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