Senate expedites trafficking law

Deputy Marion County Prosecutor Mary Hutchinson listens to questions after testifying on behalf of Senate Bill 0004 at a committee meeting Thursday morning. Hutchinson said the bill, which aims to close loopholes in Indiana's current human trafficking laws, would be helpful to her investigations.

By Zach Osowski

A bill that enacts much harsher penalties on human

traffickers passed a Senate committee 9-0 Thursday as lawmakers pushed to get

the bill passed quickly.

With the Super

Bowl

one month away, legislators are facing a time crunch to get Senate

Bill 4 — and other legislation — passed before football fans arrive

in Indianapolis.

That's because the sex trade — and the human

traffickers that drive some of it — will be arriving in Indianapolis for

the game. The bill is meant to make it easier for prosecutors to address sex

crimes in February but supporters say it will also address a problem that has

been growing for a long time.

"It is crucial we get this done before the Super

Bowl," Sen.

Randy Head

, R-Logansport, told the committee. "We need to have a plan

in place. This law will broaden the definition of human trafficking and

increase the penalties."

The proposal increases the charge for human

trafficking

— which can include the recruiting, harboring or selling

of a person for purposes of prostitution, commercial sex acts, forced labor or

involuntary servitude — to a Class B felony, punishable by up to 20 years

in prison and a $10,000 fine. If the crime involves a child under age 16, the

charge would be an A felony, punishable by up to 50 years in prison with a fine

as high as $10,000.

Currently, human trafficking is charged as a C felony,

punishable by up to eight years in prison and a $10,000 fine. It only becomes

an A felony under current law, if a parent or legal guardian is charged will selling a child.

Untitled from The Statehouse File on Vimeo.

Marion County Deputy Prosecutor Mary Hutchinson is someone

who has firsthand experience dealing with trafficking. She emphasized that the

bill should be passed as soon as possible, but not just for the Super Bowl.

Human trafficking is a growing problem according to

Hutchinson, and the proposed law is something that is very necessary not just

for the Super Bowl, but for any event that might bring in large crowds.

"Increasing the punishment from C to a B felony is a

key change," Hutchinson said.

Human trafficking is something that not many people know

about, but the numbers suggest that it is a rather large, global industry, said

David Miller, a deputy Indiana attorney general. He provided lawmakers with

statistics about the international trafficking problem.

"Human trafficking is a $32 billion industry

internationally," Miller said. "There are

12.3 million people trafficked across country borders every single year. This

bill can make a difference today."

The bill deals only with those that supply the victims, not

those that pay for the services, a point that was brought up by committee

member Sen.

Greg Taylor

, D-Indianapolis. Although he voted to move out of committee,

Taylor was adamant that more should be done to punish those that create a

demand for the services.

Miller acknowledged that the bill doesn't address that

issue. He assured Taylor, however, that there is a law dealing with those

people. Under current law, it is a class C felony to purchase a sex slave,

Miller said.

The bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

Head hopes get the bill to Gov. Mitch Daniel's desk by the end of this month.

The above is one of an ongoing series of reports from the Statehouse File by students at the Franklin College Pulliam School of Journalism.

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