Rep. Watson: Significant Steps Taken Against Human Trafficking In Tennessee

Monday, April 29, 2013
During this legislative session, Tennessee made significant steps in becoming one of the top states in the nation with the strongest anti-human trafficking legislation. Human trafficking has become one of the fastest growing crimes in the nation. According the 2011 TBI report, eighty-five percent of the counties stated that they have investigated at least one human sex trafficking case over the last 24 months. Seventy-two percent of the total counties in the state reported at least one case of minor human sex trafficking.
There were 16 entities that reported an excess of 50 cases and eight reported over 100 cases of minor cases of human sex trafficking. With the creation of the Tennessee Human Trafficking Hotline and the numerous amounts of law enforcement officers and first responders who have been trained to recognize trafficking victims, the number of trafficking cases has increased.

We presented a fourteen anti-human trafficking bill package in order to push Tennessee to be the leading state with the strongest trafficking laws. Listed below are the bill numbers and summaries:

HB128/SB 1035 requires rather than permits that restitution to the victim be paid by the defendant for the offenses of patronizing prostitution, trafficking for commercial sex acts, solicitation of a minor for sexual purposes, and enlisting or paying a minor to engage in child pornography.

HB129/SB 0466 expands the offense of solicitation of a minor to include solicitations by adults, that if completed, would constitute trafficking for commercial sex acts, patronizing prostitution, promoting prostitution or aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor.

HB130/SB 1033 has three parts:

* revises the prohibition and penalty provisions of this bill to make is a Class D felony offense for any person to promote travel for prostitution by selling or offering to sell travel services that the person knows to include travel for the purpose of engaging in what would be prostitution if occurring in the state. "Travel services" includes transportation by air, sea, road or rail, related ground transportation, hotel accommodations, or package tours, whether offered on a wholesale or retail basis.

· adds the purchase of another person for the purpose of providing a commercial sex act to the types of conduct that constitute the criminal offense of trafficking a person for a commercial sex. Under present law, the offense of trafficking a person for a commercial sex is generally punished as a Class B felony, except where the victim of the offense is a child under 15 years of age, or where the offense occurs on the grounds or facilities or within 1,000 feet of a public or private school, secondary school, preschool, child care agency, public library, recreational center, or public park, in which case the offense is a Class A felony.

· Substitutes the present law definition of "sexual servitude" for the present law definition of "commercial sex act".

HB 358/ SB 1038 adds various sexual offenses to the organized crime definitions so that criminal offenses involving racketeering and unlawful debts can be applied to certain offenders.

HB416/SB1029 adds to the definition of criminal gang offenses trafficking for commercial sex acts and receipt, or intended receipt, of income, benefit, property, money or anything of value from the commission of trafficking for commercial sex acts.

HB520/ SB1032 raises the classification of the offense of promoting prostitution of a minor from a Class E felony to a Class A or B felony

HB521/SB 1030 disallows as a defense to offenses of soliciting sexual exploitation of a minor, aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor and especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor that the minor consented to the conduct constituting the offense.

HB709/SB 1028 disallows as a defense to offenses of soliciting sexual exploitation of a minor, aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor and especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor that the minor consented to the conduct constituting the offense.

HB710/SB 1034 provides that it is grounds for the termination of a person's parental rights that the parent is convicted of trafficking for commercial sex acts and the parent's child is one of the victims of the offense.

HB742/SB 1027 provides that victims 13 and under of trafficking for commercial sex acts and patronizing prostitution may, under certain circumstances, testify outside the courtroom by closed circuit television.

HB919/SB 1036 establishes human trafficking task force.

HB920/ SB 1031 removes as a defense ignorance or mistake of fact concerning the age of a minor to the offenses of patronizing prostitution and soliciting sexual exploitation of a minor.

HB1050/SB 1390 adds a person who physically possesses or controls a child to those from whose custody a child can be removed if the child is subject to an immediate threat to the child's health or safety and there is no less drastic alternative to removal.

While each piece of legislation is important to combat human trafficking in this state, there are two key items that make the most impact; the human trafficking task force and the amendment placed on HB 130 which added the word “purchases” to the definition of commercial sex acts. The Human Trafficking task force will determine the future policies and services that will be provided to victims. It will include members from the TBI, Sheriff's Association, Department of Human Resources, Children Services, Safety, Health, District Attorneys, Public Defenders, one Representative and one Senator, and many more. The goal for the task force is to develop a plan for human trafficking in Tennessee, create a system designed to support victims and prosecute the traffickers and purchasers and to make recommendations on how to coordinate services from nonprofit organizations across the state to the victims.

Alf the legislation will become effective July 1, 2013. You can find more information about each bill at the Tennessee General Assembly webpage<>.

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