Cam Ward introduces bill to increase penalties for human trafficking

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An Alabama state senator introduced a bill on Tuesday to enhance the criminal penalties for obstructing the enforcement of the human trafficking laws in Alabama.

Alabaster-Republican State Sen. Cam Ward introduced SB179, which was cosponsored by Tom Whatley (R-Auburn) and Gerald Dial (R-Lineville).

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), human trafficking is believed to be the third-largest criminal activity in the world. “It is a form of human slavery which must be addressed at the interagency level. Human trafficking includes forced labor, domestic servitude, and commercial sex trafficking.”

“This awful crime preys predominately on children,” Ward tweeted of the bill on Wednesday.

While many Alabamians are unaware of its ongoings, sex trafficking is actively happening not only abroad, but also in Alabama. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at least 36 human trafficking cases were reported in the Yellowhammer State in 2017. They also report more than 111 victims of human trafficking in Alabama have called its hotline for help this year.

In fact, the stretch of I-20 between Atlanta and Birmingham is known as the Sex Trafficking Superhighway.

“It cuts right there through downtown Birmingham, and what we’re finding, unfortunately with the interstate system that you and I use to get from Birmingham to Montgomery — is that people are using it to bring in girls, for example, for a short period of time. Buyers are available, and then they leave,” David Pinkleton, fundraising chair for the Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force told CBS 42 last year.

Under existing law, human trafficking is a crime. Additionally, obstruction of the enforcement of the laws criminalizing human trafficking is a crime.

Under the proposed law, a person commits the crime of human trafficking in the first degree if:

  1. He or she knowingly subjects another person to labor servitude or sexual servitude through use of coercion or deception.
  2. He or she knowingly obtains, recruits, entices, solicits, induces, threatens, isolates, harbors, holds, restrains, transports, provides, or maintains any minor for the purpose of causing a minor to engage in sexual servitude.
  3. For purposes of this section, it is not required that the defendant have knowledge of a minor victim’s age, nor is reasonable mistake of age a defense to liability under this section.
  4. A corporation, or any other legal entity other than an individual, may be prosecuted for human trafficking in the first degree for an act or omission only if an agent of the corporation or entity performs the conduct which is an element of the crime while acting within the scope of his or her office or employment and on behalf of the corporation or entity, and the commission of the crime was either authorized, requested, commanded, performed, or within the scope of the person’s employment on behalf of the corporation or entity or constituted a pattern of conduct that an agent of the corporation or entity knew or should have known was occurring.
  5. Any person who obstructs, or attempts to obstruct, or in any way interferes with or prevents the enforcement of this section shall be guilty of a Class A felony.

Human trafficking in the first degree would be a Class A felony.

Under the bill if a person commits the crime of human trafficking in the second degree if:

  1.  A person knowingly benefits, financially or by receiving anything of value, from participation in a venture or engagement for the purpose of sexual servitude or labor servitude.
  2. A person knowingly recruits, entices, solicits, induces, harbors, transports, holds, restrains, provides, maintains, subjects, or obtains by any means another person for the purpose of labor servitude or sexual servitude.
  3. A corporation, or any other legal entity other than an individual, may be prosecuted for human trafficking in the second degree for an act or omission only if an agent of the corporation or entity performs the conduct which is an element of the crime while acting within the scope of his or her office or employment and on behalf of the corporation or entity, and the commission of the crime was either authorized, requested, commanded, performed, or within the scope of the person’s employment on behalf of the corporation or entity or constituted a pattern of conduct that an agent of the corporation or entity knew or should have known was occurring.
  4. Any person who obstructs, or attempts to obstruct, or in any way interferes with or prevents the enforcement of this section shall be guilty of a Class B felony.

Rainbow City-Republican State Representative Mack Butler is expected to sponsor a similar bill in the House.

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