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Relating to a prohibition on prosecuting or referring to juvenile court a person younger than 18 years of age for certain conduct violating the offense of prostitution and to the provision of services to those persons.
No significant fiscal implication to the State is anticipated.
HB 1771 would effectively decriminalize prostitution for people under the age of 18. An officer would be prohibited from arresting a child for prostitution. An officer would be required to make a best effort to deliver the child to the parents or another person entitled to take possession. In the event such a person is not immediately available, the officer would be required to contact a local service provider or care coordinator who will work with specified stakeholders to create a customized packaged of services to fit the child's immediate and long-term rehabilitation needs. If a parent or other person authorized to take custody of the child, or a service provider or care coordinator is not available, the officer would transfer possession of the child to the Department of Family Services.
According to the bill author's statement of intent, this bill is to prevent the criminalization of children who are victims of human trafficking.
We support the goal of preventing the criminalization of children who are victims of sex trafficking, or who have otherwise been coerced into prostitution. We support efforts to redirect people who commit prostitution offenses as a result of sex trafficking or coercion away from the juvenile justice system. However, we are skeptical that all prostitution by minors is a result of sex trafficking or coercion. Sometimes minors make poor choices of their own will, knowing what they are doing is wrong and illegal. This bill would allow such people to escape the legal consequences of their actions. For these reasons we remain neutral on HB 1771.