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Tougher penalties for ‘Johns’ who solicit children

The Senate Public Safety Committee has taken action to approve legislation that will result in felony prosecution and time in prison for anyone who solicits an act of prostitution from, or engages in an act of prostitution with, a person who is under the age of 18. SB 982, authored by Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar), provides an important tool that county prosecutors requested to pursue felony convictions especially for those who solicit minors that are 16 or 17 years of age.

The Huff legislation is part of a bipartisan effort to end child sex trafficking in California. The effort involves legislation introduced, co-authored or supported by Sen. Ted Lieu, Sen. Holly Mitchell, Sen. Jerry Hill, Sen. Marty Block, Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman and the human-rights group California Against Slavery.

“The average age that a victim is first trafficked for sexual exploitation is 12 to 14 years old, but some victims are as young as age eight,” said Senator Huff. “The only way to save our children from harm is to start putting people in prison for this crime, instead of blaming the young victims. My legislation will toughen penalties against buyers who exploit children for pleasure and profit, drive down demand and save children.”

SB 982 will allow the felony prosecution of individuals charged for soliciting a minor for purposes of prostitution, significantly increasing the ability of law enforcement and prosecutors to go after these consumers or “johns” and punish them accordingly. The Huff legislation, specifically, will make it a felony, punishable in a county jail for 16 months or 2 or 3 years, for anyone who solicits an act of prostitution from, or engages in an act of prostitution with, a person who is under the age of 18.

“Sweden passed landmark legislation in 1999 that increased criminal penalties against buying sex,” said Senator Huff during the committee hearing. “It has resulted in a significant decrease in trafficking activity. Sweden now has the lowest number of trafficking victims in the European Union and many other states are now drafting their own version of the Swedish model to combat sex trafficking.”

SB 982, which is sponsored by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and has the support of the California Alliance of Child and Family Services; California Contract Cities Association; Crittenton Services for Children and Families; City of Long Beach and the Conference of California Bar Associations, will be heard next month in the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

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