New laws to curb human trafficking in Tennessee to become effective on Monday

(NASHVILLE, TN), June 27, 2013  — July 1 marks the implementation of a wide variety of new laws in Tennessee as the 2013-2014 fiscal year is set to begin.  This includes twelve of the thirteen new laws, sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown), to combat the growing problem of human trafficking.  

Kelsey said the legislation builds on human trafficking laws passed in 2011 and 2012 after a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) report spotlighted the problem.  The TBI report showed 73 of the state’s 95 counties have reported the crime within their borders.  The study also showed that sixty-two counties reported the presence of sex trafficking of minors.    

“This is a widespread problem in Tennessee, and is especially disturbing as many victims of human trafficking are children,” said Chairman Kelsey.  “The legislation set to take effect on Monday enhances penalties against those who promote or patronize the illegal act, gives more rights to human trafficking victims, updates our laws to help ensure offenders cannot escape prosecution, and provides that this crime is included in the list of gang-related offenses.  It also provides for a Task Force to make sure we are combating the problem.”  

A 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported, “Gangs are increasingly engaging in non-traditional gang-related crime, such as alien smuggling, human trafficking, and prostitution.  Gang involvement in alien smuggling, human trafficking, and prostitution is increasing primarily due to their higher profitability and lower risks of detection and punishment than that of drug and weapons trafficking.”

“Criminal street gangs have embraced human trafficking as a lucrative revenue source,” added Kelsey.  “Sex trafficking now rivals narcotic sales as a major source of revenue for many gangs.”

Provisions of the new laws include:

Organized Crime

  • adds trafficking for commercial sex acts to the list of gang-related offenses;
  • adds trafficking for commercial sex acts, promoting prostitution, patronizing prostitution, solicitation of a minor, soliciting the sexual exploitation of a minor and exploitation of a minor by electronic means to the list of criminal acts that can constitute a charge of unlawful debts;   

Minors / Victims

  • adds aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor, trafficking for commercial sex acts, patronizing prostitution and promoting prostitution, to the list of offenses for which a minor or a law enforcement officer posing as a minor might be solicited;
  • prohibits defendants from using consent as a defense in the cases of solicitation, sexual exploitation of a minor, aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor and especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor; 
  • prohibits the lack of knowledge of a person’s age as a defense against the charges of patronizing prostitution or soliciting the sexual exploitation of a minor; 
  • creates grounds for the termination of parental rights when a parent or guardian is convicted of trafficking for commercial sex acts. 
  • allows children who are victims of trafficking for commercial sex acts and patronizing prostitution the opportunity to testify outside of the courtroom by using a two-way closed circuit television; 
  • extends the statute of limitations for minor victims from ten to fifteen years after the victim has turned 18 to give victims more time to make that realization; 
  • provides defendants or victims of sex trafficking restitution of special damages that include medical- and counseling-related expenses the victim incurred as a result of sex trafficking and other offenses;  

Penalties 

  • increases the charge of promoting the prostitution of a minor from a Class E felony to a Class A or B felony; 
  • creates a new Class D felony offense for promoting travel for prostitution; and
  • Task Force
  • creates a Human Trafficking Task Force charged with the duty of creating a plan for the prevention of human trafficking within the state. 

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