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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Virginia Governor signs legislation to protect victims of human trafficking

On Tuesday, May 31, 2011, delegates from various law enforcement agencies and NGO’s providing services to survivors of human trafficking filled a conference room at the Washington Dulles International Airport; to witness Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (R) signed three bills, all of which work to prevent human trafficking in the state.

House Bill 1893 was the most rigorous of the three bills that Governor McDonnell signed. The bill reclassified the trafficking of a minor to be a class two felony. Under the new classification anyone convicted of abducting a minor for the purpose of manufacturing child pornography or prostitution will face a penalty of 20 years to life in prison.

Governor McDonnell also signed Senate Bill 1453, which requires the Department of Criminal Justice Services to advise law enforcement agencies of human trafficking issues and House Bill 2190 which requires the Department of Social Services to develop a service plan for victims of human trafficking. McDonnell said between 4 million and 27 million people are said to be trapped in modern-day slavery around the world.

The most crucial bill that Governor McDonnell signed was House Bill 1898, which improves protections for child sex trafficking victims. HB 1898 makes the following changes to current Virginia law: Adds the crimes of abducting "any person for the purpose of prostitution" and abducting "any minor for the purpose of manufacturing child pornography" to current abduction law, which are class two felonies; Prevents a defendant from using reputation and opinion evidence concerning a victim's "unchaste behavior or prior sexual conduct" in prosecutions of abducting a person for the purpose of prostitution; and Amends the law to create a class four felony for any person who receives money or value for "causing any person" to engage in forced labor or services, concubinage, prostitution, or manufacture of any obscene material or child pornography

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