Human Trafficking Reform Legislation Heads to Governor

Human trafficking legislation by California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) that would create minimum penalties for those attempting to purchase sex was approved by the Assembly Tuesday on a unanimous 63-0 vote. It will now be submitted to the Governor.

Under Assembly Bill 1708, California would, for the first time, treat the purchasing and selling of sex as different crimes, allowing for different penalties. This fundamental change allows a wide range of changes to be made which both improve protections for trafficking victims and create stronger deterrents for purchasers who sustain the market for sex trafficking. AB 1708 would also create minimum penalties for purchasers of sex who drive demand for exploitation, requiring a person who sought to procure or did procure sexual services to spend at least 72 hours in jail with flexible sentencing implementation, in addition to paying a minimum fine of $250 for purchasing sex with an adult to $1,000 for purchasing sex with a minor.

“We can no longer turn a blind eye to the purchasers of sex who drive the demand for thousands of children pulled into sex trafficking throughout California,” said Gonzalez. “AB 1708 allows us to focus enforcement efforts on those who are creating the problem and support services on those being victimized.”

Assemblywoman Gonzalez has worked with victim advocates, support providers, law enforcement, prosecutors and other stakeholders in San Diego County and statewide to develop and refine these proposals, drawing from experience on the front lines to reduce demand and more effectively help victims of sex trafficking.

An expansive recent study into the underground sex industry in San Diego County estimated more than 11,000 sex trafficking victims/survivors each year in San Diego County with an average entry age of 15 years old. It further found that 42 percent of first-time prostitution arrests were actually instances of sex trafficking, and estimated the industry generated $810 million in annual revenue regionally, involving more than 100 area gangs.

The bill is coauthored by Senator Joel Anderson (R-East San Diego County) and supported by the California District Attorneys Association, State Coalition of Probation Organizations (SCOPO) and the District Attorney’s Offices of Alameda and San Diego Counties.