Under SB 235 human trafficking is a second degree felony and unlawful conduct with respect to documents is a third degree felony. Penalties are also increased for kidnapping for the purpose of involuntary servitude and compelling prostitution of minors. Additionally, SB 235 will allow law enforcement and prosecutors to target individuals involved in sex and labor trafficking.
For advocates combating human trafficking, with these gains come major setbacks. Customers who knowingly purchase sex with sex trafficking victims are precluded from prosecution “without more evidence.” Also, an amendment was added that will prevent prosecutors from stacking multiple charges against a defendant if the offenses are based on the same conduct and involves the same victim. Both of these provisions run contrary to the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act and the human trafficking laws of 44 other states.
“By passing SB 235, Ohio joins much of the rest of the country in sending the message that human trafficking is a serious criminal offense distinct from other offenses,” said Mary C. Ellison, Director of Policy at Polaris Project. “While Ohio has made significant progress, we
do think the law can go further by holding customers who knowingly buy sex with a victim of human trafficking accountable for their actions. We’re hopeful that these concerns will be addressed in future anti-trafficking efforts.”
The passage of legislation in Ohio represents a significant commitment by the State to ending modern day slavery. Polaris Project commends the many Ohio advocates who have worked for years to bring justice to victims by means of policy advocacy, public awareness, and victim services. These efforts along with those of the legislative leaders - Senator Teresa Fedor, Senator Tim Grendell, Senator Bill Seitz, Representative Kathleen Chandler, and the Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray - have positioned Ohio to meaningfully protect the human rights of trafficking victims, hold traffickers accountable, and send a signal that human trafficking is indeed a specific criminal offense that must be taken seriously.
Polaris Project is a leading organization in the United States combating all forms of human trafficking and serving both U.S. citizens and foreign national victims, including men, women, and children. We use a holistic strategy, taking what we learn from our work with survivors and using it to guide the creation of long-term solutions. We strive for systemic change by supporting stronger laws, operating the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline (1.888.3737.888), and providing services to help all victims of human trafficking. For more information, visit www.PolarisProject.org.