A bill that would empower human trafficking victims and establish a confidentiality privilege between them and victim advocates now awaits a full House vote.
Sponsored by Sen. Manny Diaz, the bill (SB 1826) contains a slew of provisions that aim to address human trafficking in Florida.
Republican Rep. Jackie Toledo moved Thursday to adopt the Senate bill in place of her companion proposal.
“Human trafficking is not just the Hollywood projection of international vacationers who get abducted for ransom,” Toledo said. “It can be a child who is coerced by a pair or a stranger on Snapchat or TikTok.”
Among the provisions, the bill would make communication between an advocate and a victim privileged. It would also formalize training requirements for human trafficking victim advocates and trained volunteers.
Additionally, the proposal would expand the definition of “human trafficking,” to include “purchasing, patronizing, (or) procuring” another person for the purpose of exploitation of that person, according to a staff analysis.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, roughly 24.9 million people are trafficked around the world. Of those, about 2.5 million are within the United States.
The bill would further allow a human trafficking victim to expunge their criminal record at no cost if the crimes happened while the person was part of the human trafficking scheme.
“This change will impact the lives of these victims,” Toledo said.
Youth are often the target of traffickers. The average age of a minor who is trafficked is 11 to 13 years old, the DOJ reports.
Notably, the bill would expand charges committed against minors to include victims believed to be under 18 years old.
“In almost all cases, the victim is coerced by someone they trust during a time of vulnerability, a time of weakness or abandonment,” Toledo said. “These new technologies have become a tool for predators and catalysts for these crimes that have been more and more prevalent in today’s headlines.”
Florida ranks third in the nation for reported human trafficking cases. In 2018, Florida received 767 reports of human trafficking cases of which 149 were minors, according to the staff analysis.
If signed into law, the proposals would take effect July 1.