York County lawmakers lead major anti-human trafficking measure through General Assembly

HARRISBURG – The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved landmark legislation today that would increase penalties and fines against individuals who solicit services from victims of human trafficking.

The initiative started in York County when Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) and Representative Seth Grove (R-York) worked with survivors of human trafficking, leading advocates for victims, and District Attorney Dave Sunday to put together legislation to cut off the demand for human trafficking.

The “Buyer Beware Act” significantly increases penalties against criminals who traffic and advertise victims of human trafficking, as well as the individuals who knowingly use services of the victims of human trafficking. Phillips-Hill introduced Senate Bill 60 in the Senate while Grove introduced House Bill 12 in the House of Representatives.

“The advocates and victims who worked with us have been instrumental in this bill’s passage. This legislation sends a clear message that we stand with victims against anyone who would do them harm,” Phillips-Hill said. “The demand for human trafficking exists in every corner of our Commonwealth. This legislation ensures the predators who seek the services of these victims will be punished to the full extent of the law, while giving law enforcement new tools to punish those criminals.”

“Today marks the culmination of nearly three years of work to bring this bill to the governor’s desk for his signature. Back in 2018, when I introduced the first version of the Buyer Beware Act it was to give law enforcement more tools to combat this evil crime,” Grove said. “Not only is it wonderful to see this important legislation gain the approval of my colleagues, but it is great to see House Republicans join our efforts with companion legislation to fight this vile trade.”

One of the bill’s key provisions is adding charges of a third-degree felony for first-time offenders who engage in sexual activity with a victim of human trafficking. Repeat offenders will be subject to first-degree felony charges.

The bill would increase penalties to a first-degree felony charge for an individual who solicits, recruits, entices, transports, harbors or advertises victims of human trafficking subject to sexual servitude. First-time offenders would be subject to a fine up to $1,000; second-time offenders would be subject to a fine between $5,000 and $25,000; and third and subsequent offenses would be subject to a fine between $10,000 and $25,000. The bill also makes it a super felony subject to fines between $10,000 and $50,000 if the victim subject to sexual servitude is a minor.

The legislation moves to the governor’s desk for his signature.

You can listen to Senator Phillips-Hill discuss her legislation here.