Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation authorizing law enforcement officials to seek wiretaps when investigating human trafficking and increasing protections for victims of the illegal trade, Brown’s office said Sunday.
Senate Bill 955, by Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, adds human trafficking to the list of offenses for which wiretapping may be ordered. Offenses for which a wiretap may be sought under existing law include murder, kidnapping and certain drug-related offenses, among others.
The bill received bipartisan support in the Legislature and was approved without dissent. It was one of seven trafficking-related bills Brown announced signing. The Democratic governor approved the bills without comment.
Assembly Bill 1585, by Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, allows someone who is convicted of solicitation or prostitution to petition a court to set aside the conviction if he or she can prove a conviction resulted from being a victim of human trafficking.
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“The purpose of this bill is to help those most affected by human trafficking create a new life and move beyond their harsh past,” a legislative analysis quoted Alejo as saying. “A person forced into a life of prostitution should not be branded as a criminal.”
Assembly Bill 1791, by Assemblyman Brian Maienschein, R-San Diego, increases the penalty for engaging in an act of prostitution with a minor, imposing a sentence of up to one year in jail or a $2,000 fine or both.
The bill was opposed by California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, which represents defense lawyers, according a legislative analysis. The group said there is no evidence increasing penalties will decrease the number of offenses committed.
“In addition, it is extremely concerning that the definition of human trafficking continues to broaden, and offenses, such as soliciting, are being lumped into this broad category,” the analysis quoted the group as writing.