Today Governor Scott signed two bills to protect vulnerable women and children throughout Florida. The laws will impose tougher penalties for human trafficking criminals and provide more support for commercially exploited children.
House Bill 99 provides that children who have been sexually exploited should be treated as victims. The bill also allows the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) to coordinate with community partners to designate short-term safe houses to provide services to this population.
House Bill 7049 provides additional tools to prosecutors and law enforcement officials, streamlines the criminal statutes and increases penalties for trafficking offenses.
"Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery," said Governor Scott. "We must do everything possible to protect the victims of this detestable practice and offer them a chance for a healthy and safe future. We will not hesitate to bring the criminals responsible for these crimes to justice."
Governor Scott signed the bills at Kristi House, a Children's Advocacy Center that provides services and system coordination for child victims of sexual abuse and sex trafficking
"The exploitation of children is an appalling crime that deserves our harshest penalties, and the victims of these crimes deserve our deepest support ," said Department of Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins. "I'm very pleased that we can now work with law enforcement and our community partners to protect and heal children who have been exploited in such a horrible way.
"The commercial sexual exploitation of children and sexual human trafficking of children is an increasing pandemic in this country," Kristi House Executive Director, Trudy Novicki, said. "The Florida Safe Harbor Act will allow first responders the option of treating commercially sexually exploited children as child-victims by placing them at private treatment centers or Safe Harbors to receive treatment and hope for a future."
HB 99 -- Sexual Exploitation (Florida Safe Harbor Act)
Increases the maximum fine for someone who solicits a prostitute from $500 to $5,000.
Amends definition of a dependent child who is found to be dependent to include a child who was sexually exploited and has no parent/relative to provide supervision and care.
Amends definition of sexual abuse of a child to include engaging in prostitution and participating in sex trafficking.
Allows law enforcement discretion to deliver sexually exploited children identified as to DCF, rather than arresting them, and authorizes DCF to place the child into an appropriate short-term safe house.
Requires DCF to assess sexually exploited children and determine if placement in a short term safe house is appropriate, to generate specific tracking reports tracking the needs of human trafficking victims and the ability to serve those victims, and to include services for sexually exploited children in each circuit. a master plan.
Provides for training for law enforcement officials who are likely to encounter sexually exploited children.
HB 7049 -- Human Trafficking
Expands the jurisdiction of the Statewide Prosecutor to include human trafficking cases.
Combines existing statutes regarding sex and labor trafficking into one, comprehensive statute for ease of prosecution.
Increases criminal penalties most of which are first degree felonies.
Provides each instance of human trafficking of an individual is a separate crime and authorizes a separate punishment.
Adds sex traffickers to the list of offenders that can be designated as sex offenders and sex predators.
Allows seizure and forfeiture of property used, attempted to be used, or intended to be used in the trafficking of victims.