Bill would impose tougher penalties on sex trafficking
Del. Tim Hugo (R-40th) introduced HB 1606 in a joint press conference on Tuesday. Joining him were Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the Secretary of the Commonwealth Janet Kelly, Human Trafficking Survivor Holly Austin Smith, Holly Coy of the Virginia Interfaith Center, and other legislators sponsoring additional sex trafficking bills.
This session, Attorney General Cuccinelli and the McDonnell administration have partnered with Delegate Hugo to continue to strengthen Virginia’s current statutes and institute harsher penalties against child sex traffickers.
Hugo’s 2011 bill, HB 1898, signed into law by Governor McDonnell, raised the penalty for abducting any individual for the purposes of prostitution or abducting a minor for child pornography to a Class 2 felony.
This year’s bill, HB 1606, demonstrates Hugo’s continuing commitment to the issue of human trafficking. Currently, soliciting a minor for prostitution is only a Class 1 misdemeanor. HB1606 stiffens the penalty by making it a felony. This bill would result in longer prison sentences that would keep predators off the streets longer and make communities safer.
Said Sara Pomeroy, RJI Founder & Director of the Virginia Coalition Against Human Trafficking (VCAHT), “The Richmond Justice Initiative (RJI) and the VCAHT are grateful for the leadership of Governor McDonnell, Attorney General Cuccinelli, Speaker Howell, Delegate Tim Hugo, and other members of the Virginia General Assembly in the fight against modern day slavery. Along with raising awareness and educating the public about the real and growing problem of human trafficking right here in Virginia, these legislative solutions are essential measures in helping protect our young people from unspeakable injustice.”
In stating the need to change the law, Hugo said, “Every young person is at risk of being a victim of human traffickers who seek to harm them for personal financial gain. It can happen to any child, from any background, and from any socio-economic status. I would like to thank Attorney General Cuccinelli, Secretary Kelly, Secretary of Public Safety Marla Decker, and my colleagues for their work and support on this issue. We are all committed to defeating this scourge known as human trafficking.”
Hugo concluded, “As the father of four young children, I am dedicated to ensuring child sex traffickers receive the punishment they deserve for such horrific behavior so that no child in Virginia falls prey to those who seek them harm.”