On June 11th, Senate Bill 60, The Buyer Beware Act: Combating Human Trafficking in Pennsylvania, passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee thanks, in large part, to the support of the prime sponsor, Senator Kristin Philips-Hill (R-York). Not only was Senate Bill 60 passed but it was passed with a unanimous, 14-0 vote. The House version of Buyer Beware Act (HB 12) remains in the House Judiciary Committee.
The Buyer Beware Act seeks to decrease the human trafficking taking place in PA. It may sound surprising that such a bill would be needed here in our state, as most would assume that sex trafficking is not a problem. However, according to the human trafficking hotline, in 2018 there were 246 calls and 127 human trafficking cases reported in PA alone. Since 2007 there have been 3,994 calls to the human trafficking hotline from PA, and of these calls 1,116 were labeled as “High” meaning these calls indicated a high risk for trafficking.
Senate Bill 60 would add advertising to the definition of trafficking. The bill, if passed, would also expand the definition of patronizing a victim of trafficking to include “should have known” and “recklessly disregards.” The bill’s intent is to shift the focus of law enforcement away from the victims of human trafficking and instead toward the patrons and traffickers.
If passed, Senate Bill 60, The Buyer Beware Act: Combating Human Trafficking in Pennsylvania, would align Pennsylvania’s law on human trafficking to that of the federal law. This bill would impose significantly increased penalties for human traffickers and patrons, therefore aiding in the cessation of human trafficking in PA.
Under current PA law, trafficking and patronizing a victim of human trafficking is only a 2nd degree felony with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. This bill aims to move human trafficking and patronizing a human trafficking victim to a 1st degree felony, which would increase the maximum jail time to 20 years. In addition to increasing the jail time for perpetrators of these crimes, this bill would also increase the fines for those who would patronize a human trafficking victim. Currently the fine stands at $500; this bill would increase the first time offense fine to $1,000-$3,000, the second time offense fine to $1,000-$20,000, the third time offense fine to $5,000-$30,000, and the fourth time offense fine to $10,000-$50,000. The fine for a perpetrator patronizing a minor victim would increase from $500 to $5,000-$100,000. Given that the average human trafficking victim is 12-14 years old, this increase in penalties for patronizing a minor victim is crutial to the cessation of human trafficking in PA.
Ask your state legislator to support the Buyer Beware Act by using our Citizen Action Center: pafamily.org/buyerbeware
By: Madison Reed, summer intern, junior at Grove City College.