Governor Jay Nixon has signed new laws and penalties for human traffickers. The sponsor of the legislation says it will bring the state more in line with federal statutes.
St. Charles Representative Anne Zerr says her bill better identifies those who traffic people for sexual exploitation, and makes it a crime to create or profit from internet content or video of such exploitation. Prison sentences for such offenses would be 5 to 20 years, as it would for trafficking for slavery or forced labor. Convictions would also carry a fine of up to $250,000.
The bill also requires courts to order those convicted of trafficking to pay restitution to cover the value of labor done by victims and for mental and phyiscal rehabilitation required by victims and their children. It would allow victims to file civil lawsuits against their offenders and the state attorney general to file suit seeking up to $50,000 per violation from those who benefit from trafficking offenses.
Right now most trafficking prosecution happens in federal court. Zerr says by bringing state law more in line with federal the number of prosecutions should increase. Her bill also aims to educate law enforcement about signs of trafficking and to increase communication between agencies about those signs.
Zerr says lawmakers heard horrible true stories from victims of trafficking while the bill was before the legislature. She commends those victims for their bravery.
The law takes effect August 28th.