Advocates are urging New York lawmakers to pass a new law to broaden the definition of child trafficking. The proposal would make it easier for prosecutors to pursue cases against defendants and would make conviction more likely in many circumstances.
Although advocates proposing the new law argue that current rules aren't effective at punishing traffickers, child sex trafficking laws are already very strict. Those accused of any type of wrongful conduct related to a child should contact an Albany child abuse attorney for help as soon as possible.
WAMC reported on the legislation that child safety advocates are supporting. The new law was sponsored by the Democratic Assemblywoman from Hudson Valley. If passed, the legislation would eliminate a requirement that exists under current regulations that requires prosecutors in New York to prove fraud or coercion in prosecutions for sex trafficking. This would bring New York more in line with federal laws and the laws in many other states.
Sanctuary for Families, which is a nonprofit that advocates for victims of sex trafficking, recently led an event aimed at raising awareness and support for the new bill. According to Sanctuary for Families, state prosecutors are often unable to build cases against child traffickers under current New York law unless the victim of the offense is willing and able to testify. Unfortunately, many young people are too traumatized by what they went through and do not want to testify. In other circumstances, victims fear they will be retaliated against and so refuse to testify.
Because the current law requires proof of fraud or coercion, prosecutors often cannot make effective cases for trafficking when children do not speak in court about how fraud or coercion was used – so the lawmakers who are advocating for the change essentially believe the burden of proof ends up falling onto vulnerable children.
However, those who oppose making changes to existing laws are concerned that eliminating the requirement of force or coercion could result in prosecutors misusing the laws and prosecuting people without a direct connection to trafficking.
Proponents of the law argue this would not happen as a result of intent requirements in trafficking laws. There are different levels of intent under the law that apply to criminal conduct, including negligence; recklessness; knowing; and actual intent, which is the highest standard for prosecutors to meet. The new legislation would not result in innocent people being prosecuted, according to those urging its passage, because prosecutors would still have to prove intent.
There are around 55 sponsors of the proposed new bill to change trafficking laws, so it has widespread support. However, it remains to be seen whether the legislation ultimately does pass and change New York's trafficking rules.
Under either the existing rules or new rules that would go into effect if the law passed, defendants can still face challenges in fighting for their future if they are accused of child trafficking. An Albany child abuse attorney should be consulted to evaluate the evidence, develop an appropriate legal strategy, and take steps to help reduce the likelihood of conviction or minimize the possible penalties that could result.
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