OLYMPIA – Yesterday, the House of Representatives unanimously passed House Bill 1184. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Tina Orwall (D-Des Moines), strengthens human trafficking laws by allowing law enforcement to conduct effective sting operations through online transactions.
Within the sex industry, the exchange of money regularly takes place through the internet and law enforcement often utilizes the same medium to conduct sting operations. However, if the initial contact is made in a different city or county than where the arrest is made, arguments have arisen in court about jurisdiction. House Bill 1184 addresses this issue by specifying that a person can commit the crime of patronizing a prostitute in more than one location, such as at the place of contact or where the communication is received.
Ken Thomas, the Police Chief for the city of Kent and the requestor of the bill, explained in his testimony at the public hearing that it is a technical fix to the law. He went on to say that in many other crimes, such as identity theft or drug crimes, it does not matter where the offender is arrested.
“It is essential to provide law enforcement with the tools they need to combat human sex trafficking,” said Orwall. “This allows them to hold perpetrators accountable and help protect victims of this horrific industry.”
Rep. Orwall, who has a history of sponsoring legislation to strengthen Washington’s human trafficking laws, has also sponsored two bills to aid victims of human trafficking. The intent of each bill is to aid human trafficking survivors who are trying to reestablish their lives. House Bill 1112 makes it easier for victims of human trafficking to have their prostitution charges vacated, which can remove barriers to necessities such as finding a job or housing. House Bill 1079 allows courts to impose criminal no-contact orders against traffickers, who often use threats or coercion to manipulate their victims. Both bills have been passed out of the House Public Safety Committee.
“We are fortunate in this state that we have some of the best laws in the country to fight human trafficking,” said Sen. Mike Padden (R-Spokane Valley), sponsor of the Senate companion bills to HB 1184 and HB 1079. “But there is more that remains to be done in this session. Human trafficking is a serious matter – basically a modern-day form of slavery. Our concern should be for the young women who are targeted by older men with the worst of intentions. We need to recognize that this is not a victimless crime.”