Arizona HB2454: A Great Start

On April 22, 2014, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed HB 2454 into law. (You can read her press release here: PR HB 2454.) This law brings significant positive changes to the Arizona anti-trafficking framework. In fact, some are already hailing it as a model. We wouldn’t go that far, but it is a definite victory in the fight against modern-day slavery in Arizona.

Here is what HB 2454 does in a nutshell:

  • Requires escorts, escort agencies, massage therapists, and massage therapy businesses to post the escort or massage therapy license numbers of anyone advertising escort or massage services, and requires advertisers to retain proof of the age of any escort or massage therapist whose services are advertised. Also includes penalties for noncompliance. (This provision gives prosecutors more tools to go after pimps, as well as “virtual red-light districts” such as Backpage.com.)
  • Lets the fact that a trafficker recruited, enticed, or obtained a victim from a shelter for homeless people, foster children, domestic violence or sexual assault victims, or trafficking victims, serve as an aggravating factor when they are sentenced for their crimes, resulting in longer sentences.
  • Adds child prostitution, sex trafficking, and labor trafficking to the list of crimes that can be prosecuted as racketeering, and lets money from the state’s anti-racketeering fund go toward programs serving victims of trafficking.
  • Changes the wording of the definition of pandering (i.e., pimping), making it easier to prosecute.
  • Increases penalties for child sex traffickers whose victims are 15-17 years of age, to a presumptive sentence of 13.5 years for a first-time offender.
  • Increases penalties for johns of child sex trafficking victims where the john “knew or should have known” the victim was a minor.
  • Creates an affirmative defense for those charged with prostitution that they are victims of sex trafficking.
  • Imposes new measures to protect trafficking victims’ privacy in court proceedings.
  • Establishes a (modest) state human trafficking victim assistance fund.

We’re encouraged by this progress, but there is still more to be done. Arizona still lacks many basic elements of a comprehensive anti-trafficking framework. Here are just a few examples:

  • We don’t have a “safe harbor law”–a law saying that child sex trafficking victims cannot be prosecuted for prostitution.
  • There is no special law allowing trafficking victims to sue their traffickers for civil damages.
  • There is no way for trafficking victims to have their records expunged or vacated. This is a big problem for sex trafficking victims in particular, who are often wrongfully convicted of prostitution even when they were forced into it. These convictions haunt them for years after their trafficking, making it difficult to get employment, housing, and more.
  • There is no law mandating law enforcement training on human trafficking.

HB 2454 is a victory worth celebrating, but the fight is far from over. Make sure you’re signed up for the SAAS email newsletter to stay up-to-date on legislative issues in Arizona, and all the latest trafficking news.

You can read the full text of the new law here: HB 2454. (Red text is stuff that HB 2454 deleted from prior statutes, and blue text is the stuff it added.)

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