Selected SLC Research


Policy Analysis | March 30, 2017

Human Trafficking

Roger Moore, Policy Analyst

The Southern Legislative Conference has previously focused on the issue of human trafficking. For further reference, see the 2009 SLC Regional Resource, Human Trafficking: Preventing, Prosecuting and Protecting, and 2013 SLC Webinar, Human Trafficking: State Responses to Modern-Day Slavery.

In the past several years, many states have introduced laws aimed at curbing human trafficking of both minors and adults. States have especially focused on increasing penalties for those convicted of trafficking, with more severe punishments when the victim involved is a minor. Punishments include decades of imprisonment and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma and West Virginia all have passed such measures in the past three to four years.

All states in the Southern region have passed anti-trafficking legislation to some degree. Provisions found in prior pieces of legislation include:

  • Permitting the state to seize all property associated with activities of human trafficking, proceeds of which often go to law enforcement agencies, child services, and/or human trafficking victim funds (Georgia, Kentucky, Virginia)
  • Requiring traffickers to register as sex offenders (Georgia)
  • Clarifying and expanding definitions of 'abuse,' 'trafficking,' and/or 'coercion' to better protect victims and facilitate prosecution of traffickers (Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee)
  • Requiring specified establishments to provide information about the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline (South Carolina)
  • Removing the statute of limitations on child prostitution (Texas)
  • Granting immunity to witnesses involved in prostitution cases (Texas)
  • Establishing safe harbor laws whereby victims of trafficking are not convicted of crimes for activities in which they were forced to engage (Alabama, Florida, Georgia)
  • Requiring perpetrators to pay additional fines upon conviction to fund counseling and other related services for victims (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi)
  • Requiring law enforcement officers to undergo training to assist them in successfully addressing cases involving human trafficking and child abuse (Georgia)

Human Trafficking Legislation in Southern States


State Bill Key Provisions
Alabama House Bill 433 (2016)
  • Provides a safe harbor provision in state law whereby a child who engages in prostitution will not be convicted of a crime
  • Provides social and community services for sexually exploited children
  • Authorizes an additional fine of $500 for those convicted of trafficking, to be used for counseling and other services for victims
Arkansas House Bill 1203 (2013)
  • Expands the definition of human trafficking
  • Increases penalties for those convicted of trafficking
  • Permits the attorney general to create the State Task Force for the Prevention of Human Trafficking
  • Allows victims of human trafficking to bring civil actions in any appropriate state court
    • The court can award actual damages, compensatory damages, punitive damages, injunctive relief or any other appropriate relief to the victim.
    • If the trafficker's actions were willful and malicious, three times actual damages shall be awarded to the victim.
Florida House Bill 545 (2016)
  • Includes human trafficking as a predicate offense for felony murder
  • Increases penalties for individuals and establishments convicted of human trafficking
  • Removes people younger than 18 years old from being prosecuted for prostitution
Georgia House Bill 200 (2011)
  • Significantly increases penalties for individuals convicted of human trafficking
    • Those caught trafficking a minor under the age of 16 are charged with a felony. Punishment includes 10 to 30 years in prison and fines up to $100,000.
    • Those caught trafficking a minor between the ages of 16-18 are charged with a felony. Punishment includes five to 20 years in prison and fines between $2,500-$10,000.
  • Allows the state to seize all property that a trafficker used in the course of his/her trafficking activities
  • Mandates law enforcement training to assist officers in successfully handling incidents involving human trafficking victims
  • Prohibits unfamiliarity with the age of the victim as a defense for those accused of human trafficking
  Senate Bill 8 (2015)
  • Requires individuals convicted of human trafficking to register as sex offenders on the State Sexual Offender Registry
  • Establishes the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund, which is tasked with providing physical and mental health care, housing, education, professional development, child care, legal help and other services to victims of human trafficking
    • The Fund receives money from two sources:
      • Adult entertainment establishments must pay $5,000 annually.
      • Individuals convicted of human trafficking must pay a fine of $2,500 into the fund, in addition to all other penalties and fines levied.
Kentucky House Bill 3 (2013)
  • Implements multiple measures to protect and support children who are victims of trafficking
  • Requires any person convicted of trafficking to pay $10,000, in addition to all other applicable fees and penalties, to support a human trafficking victims fund
    • Money in the fund will be distributed to agencies throughout the state that support victims of human trafficking.
  • Mandates that proceeds and assets seized as a result of human trafficking be distributed as follows:
    • 50 percent - Human trafficking victims fund
    • 42.5 percent - Law enforcement agency that seized the property, to be used for law enforcement purposes
    • 7.5 percent - Office of the attorney general
Louisiana House Bill 49 (2012)
  • Significantly increases penalties for anyone facilitating acts of human trafficking
    • Anyone convicted of trafficking as outlined in the bill who previously was convicted of a sex offense against a minor will be fined up to $100,000 and imprisoned for at least 50 years, at least half of which time must be served without the opportunity of parole, probation or suspension of sentence.
  • Requires fines up to $75,000 and imprisonment up to 40 years for second convictions involving child pornography
  • Prohibits unfamiliarity with the age of the victim as a defense for those accused of human trafficking
Senate Bill 88 (2013)
  • Creates multiple provisions to support victims of human trafficking
  • Establishes that proceeds from property and assets seized as a result of trafficking activities be distributed as follows:
    • 25 percent: Seizing agency or agencies allocated in proportion to their management of the investigation
    • 25 percent: Prosecuting agency
    • 50 percent: Exploited Children's Special Fund
  • Provides safe harbor for sexually exploited children whereby victims of trafficking are diverted into services, such as counseling and emergency housing, rather than charged with a crime
Senate Bill 90 (2016)
  • Increases the age threshold for human trafficking victims from 18 to 21 years old
    • Anyone found guilty of trafficking a victim under the age of 21 will be fined up to $50,000 and/or imprisoned for 15 to 50 years.
Mississippi House Bill 673 (2013)
  • Increases penalties for individuals
    • Those convicted of human trafficking are imprisoned for two to 20 years and/or fined $10,000-$100,000.
    • Those convicted of trafficking minors will be imprisoned for five to 30 years and/or fined $50,000-$500,000.
  • Mandates that 50 percent of all fines resulting from a conviction will be deposited into the Relief for Victims of Human Trafficking
Senate Bill 2156 (2016)
  • Alters the definition of "coercion" to better protect victims of human trafficking
  • Clarifies that a child involved in trafficking is considered abused, and that promoting or procuring prostitution of a child is a registrable offense
North Carolina Senate Bill 683 (2013)
  • Increases penalties for individuals promoting prostitution as well as those who patronize prostitutes or related establishments in which prostitution occurs
    • Prohibits unfamiliarity with the age of the victim as a defense for those accused of human trafficking
  • Establishes the North Carolina Human Trafficking Commission. The Commission is tasked with:
    • Applying for and receiving funding to combat human trafficking
    • Contributing to efforts to inform law enforcement, social service providers and the general public about human trafficking
    • Suggesting new policies and legislation to eradicate human trafficking
  • Provides services for victims of prostitution and human trafficking
    • Subject to the availability of funds, the Department of Health and Human Services can provide services and assistance to victims of trafficking.
Oklahoma House Bill 2518 (2012)
  • Increases penalties for individuals convicted of human trafficking
    • If the victim is 18 and over, the convicted individual will face at least five years' imprisonment and/or a fine up to $10,000.
    • If the victim is under 18, the convicted individual will face at least 10 years in prison and/or a fine up to $20,000.
House Bill 1006 (2015)
  • Amends statutes related to electronic interception to include individuals suspected of human trafficking
    • Upon approval by a relevant judge, law enforcement agencies can intercept wire, oral or electronic communications of anyone suspected of human trafficking activities.
South Carolina Senate Bill 196 (2015)
  • Amends laws related to the state grand jury system to include crimes involving human trafficking
    • A grand jury can investigate crimes involving human trafficking.
  • Requires the following specified establishments to post information regarding the 24/7 National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline:
    • Adult businesses, including nightclubs, bars, restaurants, or similar businesses in which a person appears nude or seminude
    • Businesses and establishments that offer massages or bodywork services by any unlicensed persons
    • Urgent care centers and emergency rooms
    • Transportation hubs, including airports, train stations, bus stations, rest areas and truck stops
Tennessee Senate Bill 2121 (2016)
  • Alters the meaning of "promoting prostitution" so that it only applies when someone promotes or procures another individual for prostitution so victims are not punished for acts in which they are forced to engage
  • Expands the definition of 'caregiver' to include those who also may be traffickers
    • Including this change allows the Department of Children's Services to provide assistance for minors who are victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation.
Texas House Bill 10 (2015)
  • Removes the statute of limitations on child prostitution
  • Grants immunity for witnesses in prostitution cases
  • Creates the Child Sex Trafficking Prevention Unit
Virginia House Bill 1964 (2015)
  • Establishes criminal offense for acts involving human trafficking
    • Anyone convicted of recruiting another person into prostitution is charged with a felony.
  • Permits multi-jurisdictional grand juries to investigate cases involving human trafficking
  • Allows the state to seize all property and assets connected to human trafficking activities once a conviction is made
    • Real property is not subject to seizure unless the convicted individual is sentenced to at least five years in prison.
West Virginia House Bill 2318 (2017)
  • Imposes penalties up to $200,000 and three to 15 years' imprisonment for anyone convicted of trafficking
    • If the victim is a minor, penalties are raised to fines up to $300,000 and five to 20 years in prison.
  • Establishes that violations against each victim, adult or minor, are considered separate offenses
  • Permits legal recourse for people accused of prostitution as a result of being trafficked
    • The victim may apply for a petition to have the conviction vacated and expunged from the victim's record.
  • Allows the court to require those convicted of trafficking to provide restitution to the victim