Anyone charged with human trafficking in Virginia could soon be held without bail under a new bill supported by Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring.
The bill would treat human trafficking on the same level as murder, rape, and robbery.
“Human trafficking is a threat to public safety here in Virginia and across the United States,” said Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, according to the local WHSV-TV3 news outlet.
“This legislation will help us prevent these crimes by making it more difficult for human traffickers to post bail and leave jail to intimidate witnesses or continue their criminal activity,” Northam said. “I am proud to sign this legislation today and I thank Delegate Mullin and Attorney General Herring for their commitment to this issue.”
The commonwealth’s attorney for Augusta County, Tim Martin, said that the bill would be helpful since people engaged in human trafficking are often in a location only to commit the crime.
“Obviously, by nature of the business, they aren’t from here, so they don’t have those family ties, and they are very likely to disappear, and that makes it so we can’t keep them accountable,” Martin said. “I say it’s a great thing, human traffickers would say it’s a terrible thing. So it’s all a matter of perspective, I suppose.”
Under the bill, crimes that fall under the category of human trafficking include taking or trafficking people for rape or prostitution, profiting from a person in a house of prostitution or forced labor, receiving money from a prostitute’s earnings, and commercial sex trafficking of a family or household member.
The toughening of laws in Virginia follows a series of similar initiatives that have taken place in federal and state governments during the Trump administration.
President Donald Trump signed the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) bill on April 11, which empowers state prosecutors to go after owners of websites that host sex trafficking ads, and allows victims to file lawsuits against such websites.
A bill passed by the New York state Senate on June 13 makes it so that anyone over the age of 21 who promotes or profits from the prostitution of minors will be charged with sex trafficking and face 25 years in prison. The bill is now on the desk of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and will go into effect if he signs it.
The New York bill would close a loophole that previously allowed child sex traffickers to get away with their crimes if the children did not testify or were not able to testify.
“Human trafficking is a scourge that continues to plague our communities,” New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said in a statement. “Today’s legislation will help make sure that those who exploit children in this heinous way are brought to justice.”
Another bill was passed unanimously by the U.S. House of Representatives on June 25 that would require the Comptroller General of the United States to produce a study to Congress on how virtual currencies and online markets are used for sex and drug trafficking markets, while proposing regulations and legislation to end the illegal activities.
Trump declared a national emergency through an executive order on Dec. 21, 2017, in response to severe human rights abuses and corruption around the world. The executive order allows the United States to freeze assets of foreigners in U.S. jurisdictions who commit severe human rights abuses, or who engage in corruption.