Bill would dismiss charges for human trafficking victims

Posted at 7:20 PM, May 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-16 19:20:56-04

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Human trafficking victims forced or coerced into prostitution could get certain criminal charges deferred or dismissed under a bill approved by the Michigan Legislature on Tuesday.

The state Senate passed legislation that would allow some prostitution-related charges to be dropped regardless of any prior convictions. The move comes following recommendations made by the attorney general’s office and the Michigan Human Trafficking Commission.

Currently, human trafficking victims are eligible for probation programs if they have no previous prostitution-related convictions, said state Rep. Bronna Kahle, R-Adrian, who sponsored the bill.

Kahle said the bill would change Michigan’s law and help human trafficking victims lead better lives.

“We want to make sure they have the best chance possible for recovery and being whole and productive again,” Kahle said.

But University of Michigan Human Trafficking Clinic Director Bridgette Carr said the legislation does not go far enough to address the issue of recognizing human trafficking victims as victims.

“Unfortunately, in Michigan we haven’t made the paradigm shift to recognizing people as victims because of what happened to them,” Carr said.

Other states have recognized victims as victims because they have been exploited and offer immunity and diversion rather than making them “jump through hoops,” Carr added.

The bill passed the House in March and now goes to Gov. Rick Snyder. Messages seeking comment about whether Snyder planned to sign the bill were left Tuesday by The Associated Press.

Eighteen states and the District of Columbia provide immunity and diversion opportunities for trafficked youth, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Snyder signed legislation in 2015 that made human trafficking punishable by life imprisonment. The law also created the Michigan Human Trafficking Commission.