|By House State Government Committee Chairman Seth Grove (R-Dover)
With Pennsylvania ranked fourth in the nation in the number of criminal human trafficking cases in 2019, the General Assembly has taken great strides to combat the evil crime that subjugates humans to modern day slavery.
A little more than a year ago, the Buyer Beware Act became law and targets individuals who solicit or advertise the sexual services of victims of human trafficking. By going after those who take advantage of victims of modern-day slavery, law enforcement is taking these dangerous predators off the streets. The measure, Act 1 of 2020
, is called the “Buyer Beware Act” because of a key provision that calls for a third-degree felony charge for first-time offenders who engage in sexual activity with a victim of human trafficking. Repeat offenders will be subject to first-degree felony charges. If the victim is a minor, criminals would be subject to a super felony subject to fines between $10,000 and $50,000.
In the year since the Buyer Beware Act became law, the House approved a comprehensive package of bills to make it easier to prosecute human traffickers and protect their victims. Three of the bills have become law, while the remaining five pieces of legislation are awaiting consideration in the Senate.
House Bill 246
, now known as Act 32 of 2021
, would prohibit defendants in human trafficking cases from introducing evidence of a victim’s past sexual victimization or allegations.
House Bill 843
, now known as Act 38 of 2021
, would add human trafficking offenses to the list of convictions affecting a child custody determination.
Finally, House Bill 1147
, now known as Act 45 of 2021
, would expand the list of offenses that require state inmates to participate in Department of Corrections counseling or therapy for sex offenders to include those convicted of human trafficking involving sexual servitude or other criminal offenses involving sexual abuse of a minor.
Getting these bills signed into law was very much a collaborative effort and one I am proud to have had a hand in. Though we were able to shepherd three of the bills into law, more work lies ahead for the five remaining pieces of legislation.
In fact, the four bills, along with the Buyer Beware Act, are just the start. More must be done to give law enforcement the needed tools to hold villains who enslave others accountable for their actions.
Fortunately, a provision in the Buyer Beware Act helps continue the fight against the plague that is human trafficking. Revenue generated by the increased fines is earmarked to assist in further efforts against human trafficking across the state through funding programs, including the Prevention of Human Trafficking restricted account and the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund.
In fact, anyone can help combat human trafficking. If you or someone you know is the victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text 233733.
Representative Seth Grove
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Greg Gross