Human trafficking and sex crimes are hard to prosecute when victims are forced to face their enslavers in court again and again.
Dealing with this and other “loopholes” in current law, San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and counterparts from the Alameda, Orange and Riverside County District Attorney’s offices Monday announced support of Senate Bill 939 by state Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego.
The bill would make it possible for prosecutors to file multiple charges against a defendant who commits human trafficking-related offenses in multiple jurisdictions across California and would hold them accountable during a single prosecution.
The proposed law would eliminate multiple trials in different jurisdictions, streamlining prosecutions and saving taxpayer dollars.
“This law would close loopholes, expand protection and spare victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation the trauma of facing their traffickers in multiple trials and reliving a nightmare in court over and over,” Dumanis said. “We join our DA colleagues in sponsoring this legislation and we urge its passage.”
Victims of human trafficking and its related crimes are often exploited in different counties and cities across California to evade law enforcement detection and to increase profit for the perpetrators.
Suspects are commonly part of organized criminal enterprises. SB939 would amend Penal Code section 784.7 to create a consolidated trial process for human-trafficking related offenses to mimic the prosecution of other crimes committed by serial perpetrators such as child molesters and rapists.
“Human trafficking is a heinous crime,” Block said. “Attacking the financially lucrative criminal enterprise cannot be fought one jurisdiction at a time. Human trafficking must be fought collectively: pooling our resources and intelligence and multiplying the impact of every effort. That’s what this bill is about.”
Recent statistics show the number of cases prosecuted under state sex trafficking statutes have more than tripled over the past four years in San Diego County.
Last year, the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office filed human trafficking-related charges against 43 defendants in cases that involved 50 victims, nine of whom were under 18. San Diego has been identified as one of the FBI’s High-Intensity Child Prostitution Areas.
The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office has a Sex Crimes and Human Trafficking Division with specialized prosecutors, investigators and victim advocates. The unit successfully prosecutes perpetrators and compassionately handles victims. Other work the DA’s Office’s is involved in includes:
Victim warning signs of sex trafficking include:
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline is 1-888-373-7888.
— From the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office