Two of my favorite Virginia legislators continue the fight against the awful realities of Human Trafficking
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
HUGO AND OBENSHAIN HOLD PRESS CONFERENCE ON SIGNIFICANT HUMAN TRAFFICKING LEGISLATION
Richmond, VA – (April 15, 2015) Today, Delegate Tim Hugo (R-40) and Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26) held a press conference to highlight HB1964 and SB1188, which together have been signed into law by the Governor. These bills create Virginia’s first standalone statute for sex trafficking.
Delegate Hugo stated:
“I would like to thank the Kids Are Not For Sale Coalition for their tremendous help with this legislation and their efforts to raise awareness of this horrendous crime. I would like to thank Senator Obenshain, as well as Delegates Rob Bell and Todd Gilbert, for their dedication and assistance in crafting House Bill 1964 and Senate Bill 1188. The threat of sex trafficking is far closer to home than many realize, and in the General Assembly, we are committed to eradicating this crime against our young people. This stand-alone statute will send traffickers and buyers the message that they are not welcome here; and that our kids are not for sale in Virginia. Not now, and not ever.”
Virginia is now the final state in the United States to enact a standalone human trafficking law. The passage of HB1964 and its subsequent signature into law by the Governor marks another goal reached for Virginia’s many organizations and individuals dedicated to stopping human trafficking. In 2011, Shared Hope International, an anti-sex trafficking organization that annually grades every state on its laws combatting child sex trafficking, gave Virginia, along with 25 other states, an “F” grade. While Virginia has made significant improvements since then to its laws combatting sex trafficking, raising its grade in 2013, Virginia’s progress continued to stall without a specific sex trafficking law. Legislators this session made sure that this gap in Virginia’s laws will no longer hold back the Commonwealth from stamping out this egregious crime.
HB1964 sets apart the offense of sex trafficking as a distinct crime and specifically criminalizes sex trafficking of a minor. Perpetrators now face a class 3 felony when a minor is the victim of sex trafficking, regardless of whether the child was forced, intimidated or deceived, reflecting the realities of how these criminals prey on the vulnerability and trust of their victims. The new law criminalizes the recruitment of minors and adults for commercial sex, conduct that had not been prohibited under Virginia law unless the defendant was a gang member. This law will also provide legal tools such as multijurisdictional grand juries, the option to seize the assets of suspected traffickers, and sex offender registration requirements that put the community on notice of the threat posed by convicted sex traffickers.
This will be the fourth piece of legislation in five years introduced by Delegate Hugo aimed at human trafficking. HB1898, introduced by Delegate Hugo in 2011 and passed into law, made abduction for the purposes of child prostitution a felony. HB1606, which became law in 2013, increased the punishment for those soliciting minors for prostitution. Most recently in 2014, the General Assembly passed Hugo’s HB485, which empowers law enforcement to better track down and arrest suspected traffickers.
As the third ranking member in the Virginia House of Delegates leadership, Delegate Hugo currently serves as the Majority Caucus Chairman for the House Republican Caucus. He is the Vice Chairman of the Finance Committee and also serves on the Commerce and Labor, Transportation, and Privileges and Election Committees. Delegate Hugo represents Centreville, Clifton, Fairfax, and Fairfax Station in Fairfax County as well as Catharpin, Gainesville, Haymarket, and Manassas in Prince William County.