Iowans have become increasingly concerned and aware of the very serious problem of Human Trafficking in our state. The Iowa legislature has made tackling this issue a priority issue for the legislative session. After several weeks of discussion, and multiple revisions to the language, the House approved Senate File 2311 and sent it to the Governor for his signature. The bill increases penalties in an attempt to curb this growing issue.
The final version of the human trafficking bill combines the best of the House and Senate language. Under the bill, if a person under the age of 18 is arrested for prostitution, the County Attorney can refer them to the Department of Human Services alleging the person is a Child in Need of Assistance (CINA). This would give protection to the person and prevent needless prosecution of human trafficking victims. People under the age of 18, who have been charged with prostitution will now be able to petition the court to remove the conviction after two years if they have had no other convictions above a simple misdemeanor. Additionally, a person who is 21 or younger, who has been subject to prostitution under the age of 18, may assert an affirmative defense, if they are charged with pimping a minor. Each of these new code sections attempt to provide stronger protection to victims.
Penalties are increased for a person who pimps or attempts to buy services from a prostitute under the age of 18. If a person pimps a prostitute under the age of 18, they can be charged with a class “C” felony, with a criminal sentence of up to 10 years in prison. If a person purchases or attempts to purchase a prostitute under the age of 18 they would face a class “D” felony and serve up to 5 years in prison.
Additionally, a $1,000 Human Trafficking Surcharge is created for those convicted of human trafficking violations. The money from this surcharge will be used to provide money to groups who assist victims of human trafficking.
The final version of this bill also raises the statute of limitations for prosecution of certain crimes against children. The following crimes will now have a 10 year statute of limitations after the victim turns 18, or three years after the discovery of the crime by DNA (whichever is longer): lascivious acts with a child, assault with intent to commit sexual abuse, indecent contact with a child, lascivious conduct with a minor, sexual misconduct with a juvenile and sexual exploitation of a minor. Extending the statute of limitations in these crimes helps ensure that those who harm children will face punishment.
Even if Iowans don’t see it every day, human trafficking is a serious problem in this state. Senate File 2311 takes major steps towards cracking down on those who sexually abuse young men and women and provides the necessary training and protection to ensure Iowans children are kept safe.