Legislature passes locally sponsored bill to close human-trafficking ‘loophole’
By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor
MONTGOMERY – A locally sponsored bill aimed at bringing harsher punishments to those found guilty of aiding with human trafficking or interfering with the enforcement of the state’s human trafficking laws has passed the Alabama Legislature, and is now awaiting the governor’s signature.
On March 20, the state House of Representatives passed the bill, clearing the bill’s final hurdle in the state Legislature.
The bill, which was sponsored by state Sens. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, and Tom Whatley, R-Auburn seeks to significantly enhance punishments for those found guilty of obstructing investigation into or aiding human trafficking offenses.
Under current Alabama law, first-degree human trafficking is defined as a person subjecting another person to labor servitude or sexual servitude through use of coercion or deception, or if a person “obtains, recruits, entices, solicits, induces, threatens, isolates, harbors, holds, restrains, transports, provides, or maintains any minor for the purpose of causing a minor to engage in sexual servitude.”
Currently, a person who “obstructs, or attempts to obstruct, or in any way interferes with or prevents the enforcement” of the first-degree human trafficking law could be found guilty of a Class C felony, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. If the bill passes, it would up the felony to a Class A, which could bring up to life in prison.
Current Alabama law also defines second-degree human trafficking as a person or corporation benefiting financially or otherwise from trafficking victims.
If signed into law, the bill will up charges for those who obstruct or interfere with enforcing the second-degree human trafficking law from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class B felony, which could result in a 20-year prison term.
““This week we’ve taken another crucial step in ending this horrific practice,” Ward wrote in a statement. “By increasing penalties for those who would aid traffickers, we will hold them just as accountable as the traffickers themselves.
““We want to give law enforcement every tool they need to ensure no child is ever harmed in this manner,” Ward added. “I want to thank my colleagues for working to pass this law. I’m proud that the Alabama Legislature has made this a priority.”