|Photo courtesy of Kids Are Not for Sale|
Virginia Delegate Timothy Hugo and Senator Mark Obenshain introduced HB 1964 (Hugo) and SB 1188 (Obenshain). If passed, this bill will be a vital tool for Virginia prosecutors, law enforcement, and advocacy groups. Not only does the bill clearly define the offense of sex trafficking, it provides critical protections for minor victims by eliminating the requirement to prove force, fraud, or coercion and by establishing mandatory minimum sentences.
Virginia is the only state in the nation without a stand-alone human trafficking law. Ernie Walton, Administrative Director of the Center for Global Justice, attended yesterday's press conference. Walton stated,
As a Virginian and a lawyer, I am proud that my state legislature does not simply follow the political sentiments of the day and pass new statutes just because an issue is trending across the country. Passing redundant statutes restricts freedom and creates serious legal problems. But sex trafficking—as we now understand the crime—is not adequately addressed by the Virginia Code, and failing to address the issue head-on only contributes to the enslavement of the victims in our state. Sex trafficking must be addressed with its own comprehensive statute, and this bill finally does that. Accordingly, I applaud our lawmakers for considering this piece of legislation and urge them to take the final step and pass it.The Center for Global Justice is a member of the Kids are Not for Sale Coalition, which is a collective effort between Virginia law enforcement, prosecutors, and advocacy groups to advocate for the passage and enactment of a sex trafficking statute, filling a key gap in Virginia’s response to sex trafficking.
The Center Student Staff is supporting the Coalition with legal research, seeking to provide answers to potential objections of Assemblyman when the bill is in committee. Next week, the bill will likely be up in the Criminal Law Subcommittee and potentially the Courts of Justice Full Committee.
Below is some recent media coverage the press conference on HB 1964 / SB1188: