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Summary: The 81st Legislature created the Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force to help coordinate agencies. Based on some recommendations made by this recently created task force, HB 8 would:
Analysis: Human trafficking is an egregious act, especially when it involves children under 18. HB 8 contains several excellent provisions to help curb human trafficking. By increasing penalties on traffickers, they will be further deterred from the act of trafficking and spend more time in jail. By removing the statute of limitations on traffickers, bringing charges against them will be easier. By registering a trafficker as a sex offender, their actions and deeds will be made public knowledge. While TPPA is generally supportive of HB 8, we do have two specific concerns.
1. This bill requires a defendant convicted of soliciting prostitution to be registered as a sex offender. The sex offender registry should be used to track sexual predators. Solicitation of prostitution, while certainly foolish and illegal, does not merit a lifetime of registration as a sex offender.
2. HB 8 requires that an individual who solicits a prostitute under the age of 18 be registered as a sex offender and a felon regardless of the solicitor's knowledge of the prostitute's age. Knowledge and intent should figure in to the severity of punishment. For example, if a young a college student solicits a prostitute he believes to be an adult, only to find out later that she is 17, the solicitor would still be considered a felon and sex offender for the rest of his life. This basically puts someone who makes a foolish choice in the same category as someone who knowingly exploits a minor.
The severity of our laws should reflect the evil nature of taking advantage of young women and girls, compelling them into prostitution, and selling them into sexual slavery. People who solicit prostitutes, believing they are adults acting of their own free will, should not be lumped in with people who willfully use and abuse young women and girls.
Recommendations: This bill could be strengthened by striking the provision requiring solicitors of prostitutes to be placed on the sex offender registry and the provision making traffickers ineligible and the provision changing soliciting a prostitute under 18 regardless of knowledge from a Class B misdemeanor to a second degree felony.