HARRISBURG – During Senate session on Monday, Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) called for the passage of legislation she’s sponsoring that would increase penalties on those who traffic or solicit the services of trafficked victims in the Commonwealth.
“Senate Bill 60 would be the next step [in the legislative effort] to ensure we shut off the demand for human trafficking,” Phillips-Hill said. “The only way we can fight human trafficking is to cut off the demand.”
Senate Bill 60, also known as the Buyer Beware Act, would shift the punishment away from the victims of sex trafficking to punish those who solicit and/or traffic individuals by expanding the definition of trafficking under the state’s crimes code to align with the federal definition.
The expanded definition would include any individual who patronizes or advertises a victim of trafficking. Additionally, the legislation mirrors federal law by expanding the offense for patronizing a victim of trafficking to include any person who should have known or acted with reckless disregard to the fact the individual was a victim of human trafficking. The legislation would also increase penalties, including:
- 1st degree felony with a maximum of 20 years in prison for trafficking for patronizing a victim of trafficking.
- Fine between $1,000 and $30,000 for patronizing a sex trafficked victim.
- If the victim is a minor, the fine is increased to a minimum of $5,000 and maximum of $100,000.
Due to the correlation between prostitution and sex trafficking, repeat offenders soliciting prostitution services will face an additional fine, including:
- At least $1,000 but no more than $20,000 for second-time offenders.
- At least $5,000 but no more than $30,000 for third-time offenders.
- At least $10,000 but more than $50,000 for fourth-time offenders.
“Senate Bill 60 looks to rectify the horrible injustices of the past that labeled those victims of human trafficking as prostitutes or criminals. They are victims,” she said.
Senate Bill 60 was recently referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Similar legislation was introduced in the House by Representative Seth Grove (R-York).
You can listen to her comments here.
Senator Phillips-Hill also interviewed Pennsylvania’s Victim Advocate Jennifer Storm about the issue, which you can listen to here.