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Michigan Senate approves crackdown on human sex trafficking

Published 5:23pm Sunday, September 16, 2012

LANSING — Legislation to help stop human sex trafficking in Michigan by strengthening the punishment for soliciting a minor to commit prostitution was approved by the state Senate on Thursday, Sen. John Proos said.

“Although freedom is more widespread than at any other time in recorded history, human trafficking is still the world’s second-largest criminal industry – devastating thousands of lives each year,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “As a father, I believe sex trafficking is an especially egregious and disgusting crime since more than a third of cases involve the sexual exploitation of a child. I strongly supported this legislation to help protect young girls and boys and end human sex trafficking in our state and nationwide.”

Senate Bill 1213 would make the solicitation of a minor age 16 or 17 to commit prostitution or any other lewd or immoral act a felony punishable by imprisonment of up to five years, a fine of not more than $10,000 or both. A companion measure, SB 1221, would establish the sentencing guidelines for the new felony.

“This crackdown targets the source of the problem: The person soliciting the prostitute, which results in thousands of women and children being sexually exploited,” Proos said. “The initiative would ensure that anyone attempting to exploit a child receives a severe punishment that fits the severe impact of their crime on a child’s life.”

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, human trafficking has occurred if a person was induced to perform labor or a commercial sex act through force, fraud or coercion. However, any person under the age of 18 who performs a commercial sex act is considered a victim of human trafficking regardless of force, fraud or coercion.

Michigan’s human trafficking laws were strengthened in 2010. In March, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s new Human Trafficking Unit secured the first conviction under the new laws. Information about human trafficking, including how to identify and report it, is available on the attorney general’s website at: www.michigan.gov/humantrafficking.

The bills have been sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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