Tennessee is coming a long way as a progressive anti-trafficking state. Here is a brief synopsis of each anti-trafficking bill that has been passed in Tennessee, as well as a short explanation of possible future legislative efforts we are pursuing.
UPDATE: A brief and talking points on our 2013 legislative campaign is now available.
Sex-Trafficking: Pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-309, a person commits the offense of trafficking persons for sexual servitude when that person knowingly subjects or maintains another in sexual servitude or knowingly recruits, entices, harbors, transports, provides or obtains by any means another person for sexual servitude. Trafficking for sexual servitude is a Class B felony.
Amendment to Trafficking for Commercial Sex Acts (2012): Enhances sentencing to a Class A felony if the victim is between 13 and 15 year of age. Under 13, a defendant may be prosecuted as a Class A felony for rape of a child. Specifies that Trafficking for Commercial Sex Acts is an offense which is included under the sex offender registry. Punishes advertising minor victims of sex trafficking if the person knowingly sells or offers to sell an advertisement that would appear to a reasonable person to be for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex.
Labor Trafficking: Pursuant to Tenn Code Ann. § 39-13-307, a person commits the offense of involuntary labor servitude who knowingly subjects, or attempts to subject another person to forced labor or services by threatening physical harm, physical restraint or threat, abuse to the legal process, destroying and/or confiscating identification or immigration documents, or by blackmail and financial harm. Involuntary servitude is a Class C felony, or a Class B felony if it results in serious bodily/ death, exceeds one year, or concerns ten or more victims.
Amendment to Labor Trafficking (2012): Increases the penalty to a defendant if the victim is under 13 years of age to a Class B felony.
Asset Seizure: Pursuant to Tenn Code Ann.§ 39-13-312 and T.C.A. § 39-11-703, Asset seizures allows law enforcement to forfeit any property subject to state forfeiture regulation and the proceeds be divided by the seizing agency (law enforcement), with the remaining proceeds placed in a fund for NGO anti-trafficking efforts.
Hotline Act: Pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-312, the Hotline Act provides that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation maintain a hotline that serves as a resource for victims of human trafficking or for those who suspect an instance of human trafficking, and strongly encourages that this hotline be posted on a flyer throughout Tennessee in any commercial enterprise or business establishment licenses by the state.
Decriminalization of Minors: Pursuant to § Tenn. Code Ann. 39-13-513 and T.C.A. § 39-13-514, decriminalization protects minors in two ways: (1) A person suspected to be under 18 years of age shall be immune from prosecution of prostitution as a juvenile or adult and that person shall be provided with the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline, (2) patronizing prostitution from a person younger than 18 is a Class E felony.
Civil Remedies: Creates a civil cause of action for trafficking victims to raise against their traffickers. A victim may bring an action for actual, compensatory, and punitive damages, or injunctive relief. A prevailing plaintiff is entitled to attorney’s fees and additional remedies are also available, including compensation for income, return of property, emotional distress, and others.
Vacating Convictions: A trafficked person shall be immune from prosecution for prostitution.
Victim Assistance: Requires the Department of Human Services to establish a plan for the delivery of services to victims of human trafficking, identify human trafficking in the state, identify community based services for victims of human trafficking, and assist victims of human trafficking through the provision of information regarding access to benefits and services to which the victims may be entitled.
Prostitution Laws: State prostitution laws are also available for a prosecutor.
Future legislative strategy will be announced Fall 2012.