The Current

Advocacy News + Updates

California joined 38 other states over the last year in passing new laws to fight human trafficking, according to leading slavery abolition non-profit Polaris Project. In its annual State Ratings on Human Trafficking Laws report released today, California improved by passing laws that removed the requirement of force, fraud, or coercion for conviction of minor sex trafficking and adding the requirement to post the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

State ratings are based on statutes enacted by July 31, 2013. The new laws passed since last July responsible for the California’s improved rating were those in Prop 35, Californians Against Sexual Exploitation, on the November 2012 Ballot and SB 1193, Hotline Public Posting Requirement. This rating keeps California in Polaris Project’s top “Tier 1” along with 31 other states. Although California was also a Tier 1 state in the 2011 and 2012 reports, this is the first improvement in its score since 2011, from 7 total points to 9, a 29% increase.

The 10-page detail of California’s rating includes three categories of statutes the state should still pass to increase effectiveness in combating human trafficking. Two of those are the establishment of a human trafficking task force by the state and “safe harbor” for minors. Safe harbor legislation prevents minor victims of sex trafficking from being prosecuted for prostitution and provides those victims with specialized services.

California’s Trafficking and Slavery Task Force concluded with its final report to the Attorney General’s Office in October 2007. Senator Leland Yee’s (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) SB 327, Human trafficking: recall and resentencing: pardons and parole, would improve state law in terms of safe harbor by reducing the likelihood that commercially sexually exploited children are treated as criminals and focusing on their needs as victims.

Another area for improvement is changing the law to vacate convictions of sex trafficking victims that occurred as a result of their exploitation. It is common for these victims to convicted of prostitution and solicitation charges while, in fact, they are being sold by traffickers. This injustice re-victimizes them through law enforcement and judicial processes and places further obstacles in their paths toward recovery and employment.

Prop 35 was the most popular initiative in California history with over 81% approval by voters. It fights trafficking in the state with a powerful, comprehensive strategy that increases the penalties for trafficking, increases fines to pay for victims’ services, mandates training for law enforcement, and removes the requirement to prove force when prosecuting child sex traffickers among other provisions.

SB 1193, authored by California Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and passed in last year’s session requires the posting of the National Human Trafficking Resource Center “Hotline” (888-373-7888) conspicuously in businesses and other establishments likely to be frequented by human trafficking victims, including liquor stores, adult/sex businesses, airports and bus stations, emergency rooms and urgent care centers, privately operated job recruitment centers, many massage service establishments, and roadside rest areas.