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New laws help victims of human trafficking

POSTED September 27, 2012 2:52 p.m.

Two new bills that are aimed at cracking down on those individuals profiting from human trafficking were signed into law Monday by California Gov. Jerry Brown.

Assembly Bill 2466, by Bob Blumenfield (D-San Fernando Valley), ensures that criminal defendants involved in human trafficking will not dispose of assets that would otherwise be provided as restitution to victims. Senate Bill 1133, by Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), expands the list of assets that a human trafficker must forfeit and provides a formula for using those resources to help victims of human trafficking. Both laws will take effect on Jan. 1, 2013.

“With these new laws, California prosecutors and law enforcement officials will be able to seize assets of human traffickers, cripple their operations and aid victims,” said Attorney General Kamala Harris. “Human trafficking is big business in California. It is a high profit criminal industry that is expanding rapidly across the globe, including here in California.”

Assembly Bill 2466 (Preservation of Assets for Victims of Human Trafficking), will help to ensure that more victims of human trafficking receive restitution. Under California law, victims are entitled to mandatory restitution; however there are no laws to help prevent human trafficking defendants from liquidating and hiding their assets before conviction. Assembly Bill 2466 will allow a court to order the preservation of the assets and property by persons charged with human trafficking.

“We need all hands on deck to confront trafficking,” Blumenfield said. “Trafficking is slavery. Now, the perpetrators of this despicable crime cannot game the system and keep their money when caught and convicted. Justice will come for victims.”

Senate Bill 1133 ensures that those convicted of human trafficking crimes involving minors will not be able to keep the financial benefits reaped from their unlawful activity. The law expands the scope of property subject to forfeiture and provides a formula to redirect those resources to community groups that aid victims of human trafficking.

“Today we are one step closer to dismantling the economic infrastructure that convicted child sex traffickers rely on to continue to lure young people into the sex trade,” said Senator Leno. “In addition to taking away the lucrative profits from these horrendous crimes, we are providing much-needed financial support for increased investigations and victim services.”

Attorney General Harris co-sponsored the California Human Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2005, which made human trafficking a felony in California. Last week Harris and Mexico Attorney General Marisela Morales Ibáñez signed an accord to expand prosecutions and secure convictions of criminals who engage in the trafficking of human beings. The accord will increase coordination of law enforcement resources targeting transnational gangs that engage in the sale and trafficking of human beings across the California-Mexico border. The accord also calls for closer integration on human trafficking investigations between the two offices and the sharing of best practices for law enforcement to recognize instances of human trafficking and provide support and services to victims.

Human trafficking is estimated to be a $32 billion industry, the world’s third most profitable criminal enterprise behind drugs and arms trafficking. Human trafficking involves the recruitment, smuggling, transporting, harboring, buying, or selling of a person for purposes of exploitation, prostitution, domestic servitude, sweatshop labor, migrant work, agricultural labor, peonage, bondage, or involuntary servitude. While human trafficking often involves the smuggling of human beings across international borders, numerous Americans are trafficked around the United States ever year.

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