Atkins’ Bill to Help Convict Sex Traffickers Heading to Governor’s Desk

September 6, 2017

The California Senate today gave final approval to SB 230, legislation by Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) that will help prosecutors convict predators who traffic in sex slavery, sending the bill to the governor’s desk. The Senate’s vote came after the Assembly passed the bill on Tuesday.

SB 230 adds the crime of sex trafficking to the list of exceptions to the rule prohibiting the introduction of character evidence during trial. The other exceptions to this rule include cases involving sexual offenses and cases of domestic violence, elder or dependent abuse and child abuse.

“During the past few years, the state Legislature has really stepped up its efforts to crack down on human trafficking and provide help to those who are victimized,” Atkins said. “SB 230 will give prosecutors another important tool to use in trial as they bring predators to justice.”

Due to the exploitative nature of the relationship between victims and their traffickers, sex trafficking can be difficult to prosecute. Sex traffickers often use tactics to psychologically control their victims. As a result, people victimized by sex trafficking often do not see themselves as victims – at least not initially. Many are also threatened with violence by their traffickers if they cooperate with the police. For these reasons, securing their testimony at trial can be difficult. SB 230 allows prosecutors, subject to a judge’s discretion, to use a sex trafficker’s prior activities to help prove their current ones.

In other news:

  • Atkins’ bill SB 462 also passed the Assembly on Tuesday and then cleared the Senate today. It, too, now heads to the governor’s desk. The bill clarifies that probation departments may access juvenile-justice data in order to fulfill reporting requirements or conduct research to improve their programs. It also permits courts to authorize probation departments to provide third-party researchers to with limited access to juvenile case files to conduct research on juvenile-justice populations and the programs that serve them. SB 462 ensures that no personally identifying information from a juvenile case file may be released, disseminated or published.
  • Meanwhile, on Tuesday, SB 587 cleared the Senate a final time and was sent to the governor, after having been passed by the Assembly on Aug. 31. SB 587 allows probation officers, after completing appropriate training, to display blue warning lights on their emergency vehicles when responding to emergency situations, enabling them to alert other officers and the public that they are peace officers and are there to assist.