House panel clears human trafficking bill
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- There have been more than 60 confirmed cases of child sex trafficking in Kentucky since July, and now a bill making its way through the legislature would help victims rebuild their lives.
The bill, SB 184, decriminalizes victims of human trafficking. It passed the House Judiciary Committee, and is on its way to likely passage in the full House.
The bill is sponsored by Sen. Morgan McGarvey (D-Louisville). It would mean that those accused of committing non-violent crimes such as prostitution, shoplifting and drug offenses can be cleared of those crimes if a court finds they were committed while they were a victim of human trafficking.
"This allows a victim to move on with their life; to go on and, hopefully, lead a constructive life," McGarvey told the House panel.
"They can't be coerced by their trafficker to plead guilty to crimes. They're going to be able to say, 'Look, I really didn't do this drug offense. I was under the coercion of my pimp trafficker,'" Gretchen Hunt of the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs told WDRB News.
The bill also allows trafficking victims to have to have some past offenses expunged from their records.
"Remember these were all crimes that were committed when they were under the coercion and control of another person. They were victims at that time, and what this bill does, it really helps them to be seen as victims in our system and to rebuild their lives," said Hunt.
Rep. John Tilley (D-Hopkinsville) helped pass a similar bill in 2013 that protects child victims.
"And this is just another piece in the puzzle to eliminate any negative consequences of young girls who are sold into sexual slavery, yet are criminalized at some point. And they are allowed to go with their lives based on this bill," said Tilley.
The bill has already passed the Senate. Although this is the last full week of this session, it is expected to clear the House.
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