Flagged Bills: HB 105 – Human Trafficking Revisions – Rep. Angela Romero & HB 136 – Human Trafficking Amendments – Rep. Paul Ray

Representative Paul Ray (Republican - Clearfield)

Representative Paul Ray (Republican – Clearfield)

***Note: this bill has been substituted, this analysis may no longer be valid***

Lawmakers have steadily been cracking down on human trafficking over the past few legislative sessions, and they have not shied away from imposing strict new laws to give law enforcement the tools they need to impose harsh sentences to those who commit the truly heinous act of enslaving people to perform forced labor or be sexually exploited. Victims are often underage and, if never freed, face a life of true horror.

Representative Paul Ray (Republican – Clearfield) is giving a crystal clear message to traffickers with HB 136 – Human Trafficking Amendments: If you are caught, the state will treat you like the menace to society that you are. The bill changes the penalty for aggravated human trafficking from a first-degree penalty to a first-degree felony, provided that the victim is aged 17 or younger and the offense results in that person’s death. The bill also prevents officials from reducing any sentence for the aggravated trafficking of a minor. This puts human trafficking on par with murder, kidnapping, rape, and sexual abuse. Fitting, considering that victims of human trafficking are often subject to these terrible crimes.

Two separate bills are taking aim at human traffickers: One may make the death penalty a reality for the offence in some cases, while the other prevents ignorance as an excuse when illegally moving minors.

It is worth noting that bumping human trafficking to a capital offense would put human trafficking (in the event of a minors death) on par with aggravated murder – an offense punishable by death. For this reason, HB 136 is sure to earn the ire of anti-death-penalty advocates both inside and outside of the legislature.

For example, Ray’s 2015 bill HB 11 – Death Penalty Procedure Amendments, which allowed death by firing squad if drugs used to carry out a lethal injection cannot be obtained 30 or more days prior to the execution date, received tough criticism from many lawmakers and relatively close votes in the House and Senate.

Representative Angela Romero (Democrat - Salt Lake City)

Representative Angela Romero (Democrat – Salt Lake City)

A second proposed bill also seeks to toughen the consequences for human traffickers. HB 105 – Human Trafficking Revisions, sponsored by Representative Angela Romero (Democrat – Salt Lake City), adds a second key component to strengthing the law. In short, Romero wants to ensure that an individual accused of underage human trafficking does not get a pass for childhood trafficking simply because they thought the victim was 18 years of age or older at the time the offense took place (not that trafficking of an adult is a good thing, of course, just that trafficking of a minor is particularly wrong).

What Romero is attempting to do with HB 105 is laudable. The bill would take away the right of alleged human traffickers to claim ignorance regarding their victim’ age. If passed, Utah would join a growing number of states that are eliminating the mistaken age defense.

Similarly, the strict punishments set forth in HB 136 display how much weight the legislature is willing to put on to those who engage in trafficking. General attitudes towards the death penalty will cause waves among the public and lawmakers will have to decide if death is an appropriate punishment for the crime. Though debates about the death penalty are valid, that is a broader conversation than the one taking place within the confines of Ray’s bill – as the penalty would only be brought down in the event of a minor.

For HB 105:

To contact Representative Romero, click here or call 801-722-4972 (Cell).

You can track this, and all of our other flagged bills, by clicking here. Need an explanation of scores? Click Here.

Impact on Average Utahn 0-1-2-3-4-5
Need for Legislation 0-1-2-3-4-5
Lemon Score 0-1-2-3-4-5
Overall Grade A

For HB 136:

To contact Representative Ray, click here or call 801-725-2719 (Cell).

You can track this, and all of our other flagged bills, by clicking here. Need an explanation of scores? Click Here.

Impact on Average Utahn 0-1-2-3-4-5
Need for Legislation 0-1-2-3-4-5
Lemon Score 0-1-2-3-4-5
Overall Grade A

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