Finance

Attorney General proposal to protect human trafficking victims passes Legislature

Bipartisan legislation creates human trafficking criminal no-contact order

OLYMPIA — The Washington State Legislature established an important protection for victims of human trafficking today.

With overwhelming bipartisan support, the House of Representatives passed an agency request bill from Attorney General Bob Ferguson establishing a specific human trafficking criminal no-contact order, which courts and law enforcement will use to safeguard victims from their traffickers.

Substitute House Bill 1079, prime-sponsored by Rep. Tina Orwall (D—Des Moines), passed the House today with a 98-0 vote. It passed the Senate with a unanimous 48-0 vote on April 5. Its companion, Senate Bill 5029, is sponsored by Sen. Mike Padden (R—Spokane Valley).

“Survivors of human trafficking are often harassed and threatened by their former traffickers after they come forward to law enforcement,” Ferguson said. “This legislation provides an important legal tool to safeguard these survivors.”

Because Washington state law does not characterize human trafficking and promoting prostitution as sex offenses, the only criminal no-contact order currently available to the court to protect victims of these crimes is a domestic violence no-contact order. This protection order is limited applying only when the victim lives or has lived with the trafficker.

Even when trafficking victims meet the requirements, the term “domestic violence” mischaracterizes the relationship between traffickers and their victims. Traffickers establish a relationship with the victim for the purpose of exploitation, not a dating relationship. They use manipulation and grooming tactics to gain the trust of the victims in order to exploit them for financial gain.

Consequently, before Ferguson’s legislation passed, existing protection orders were insufficient to protect most trafficking victims. This is especially problematic because trafficking is a major enterprise for gangs, making many traffickers extremely violent and intimidating.

Ferguson’s legislation addresses this gap in the law. Once Ferguson’s proposal goes into effect, a court can prohibit a trafficker from contact of any kind with a victim, and forbid the trafficker from being within a set distance of specific locations. A violation of a human trafficking no-contact order is a gross misdemeanor, except a violation can be elevated to a felony when tied to an assault or for a repeat violation.

This new human trafficking no-contact order will be available to help protect both victims of sex and labor trafficking.

“Tragically, the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim, who is generally a teenager, is actually one of a predator taking advantage of an underage youth. This bill creates protections and helps law enforcement assist these young victims,” said Rep. Orwall. “I am relieved that we’re sending this bill to the governor’s desk and I am grateful to all the people who worked hard to make that happen.”

“Organizations such as Shared Hope International frequently have ranked Washington among the states with the toughest laws against human trafficking, but there still is much more to do,” said Sen. Padden. “This bill will make it easier for human trafficking victims to obtain the legal protection they deserve.”

HB 1079 now moves to the Governor for signature. If signed by the Governor, the legislation will take effect on July 22.

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The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.

Contacts:

Peter Lavallee, Communications Director, (360) 586-0725; PeterL@atg.wa.gov

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