BOISE — The Idaho Criminal Justice Commission will present a new bill to the Idaho Senate Feb. 6, potentially changing the way the state handles human trafficking laws.
Sara Thomas, state appellate public defender, said there have been cases of girls being lured from Boise Town Square Mall, as well as being brought from other states to hotels in Idaho Falls and Coeur d’Alene to be sold for sex.
Thomas said purchasing anyone less than 18 years old with something of value, other than cash for sex, is not a crime in Idaho.
“Then it would be prostitution. If it’s prostitution, then it’s a misdemeanor,” she said.
Since human trafficking is not considered a crime, it is used as a sentencing enhancement in addition to another crime.
“If you commit a different crime in Idaho and if a component of that is human trafficking, your sentence can be increased to 25 years,” Thomas said.
According to the Polaris Project 2012 state ratings, Washington D.C. and 16 states, including Idaho, are ranked on tier two, meaning the state has numerous laws to take action against human trafficking, but are encouraged to improve and implement its laws.
The worst of the tiers consists of a lack of basic legal framework to fight human trafficking. This is tier four, or the faltering four that includes Wyoming,
Arkansas, Montana and South Dakota.
Wyoming is the only state in the U.S. without any laws protecting against human trafficking.
Thomas said Idaho colleges have not seen any problem with human trafficking, but there is a significant amount in Seattle colleges.
Victims can be lured by someone they know or meet and Thomas said they are often sold on websites that give information about when, where and for how long the girl will be in town for any interested parties.
Thomas said the bill has three parts.
“The first is it would make it a felony to purchase a minor,” Thomas said. “And that would be for purchasing them with anything of value, not necessarily just money, but also providing them with food, shelter, a place to stay, drugs or, for example, membership in a criminal gang.”
Thomas said the second would make anyone who violates that law a registered sex offender.
“The third part is a mechanism by which anyone that’s creating a profit or earning a profit off of selling, whether it be a minor or an adult for sexual services, the state could step in and forfeit and take all of that profit and the property they’ve purchased in using that profit,” Thomas said.
Thomas said anyone wanting to be involved in helping prevent trafficking can join groups focused on these issues, such as the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence.
“Idaho actually has some citizen groups and organizations that help not just minors who are involved in sex trafficking or who have been pulled into sex trafficking but also laborers that have been pulled into it, as well as adult women,” Thomas said.
Emily Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org