Bipartisan legislation extends statute of limitations, updates definition of commercial sexual activity
OLYMPIA — An agency request bill from Attorney General Bob Ferguson aimed at extending the window of opportunity to prosecute human traffickers for their crimes today passed the Senate with unanimous bipartisan support. The bill extends the statute of limitations on human trafficking to match that of non-lethal arson and updates the definition of commercial sex to include “anything of value,” rather than simply a fee.
“It’s hard enough for trafficking victims to come forward and seek justice without running into legal barriers,” Ferguson said. “It’s time to update our laws to better support victims and reflect the true nature of these crimes.”
After being pulled from the Senate Rules Committee by Sen. Bob Hasegawa (D – 11th Legislative District), Senate Bill 5030 passed with a unanimous, bipartisan 48 – 0 vote this morning. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Jeannie Darneille, D – 27th Legislative District (co-sponsor of another AG-request proposal to protect human trafficking victims).
Currently, the statutes of limitations for human trafficking, commercial sexual abuse of a minor and promoting commercial sexual abuse of a minor are only three years after the commission of the offense.
This short timeline severely limits the opportunity to hold traffickers accountable for their crimes. Victims are often under the control of their trafficker for significant periods of time and may be unwilling or unable to report the trafficker until they are free from their control. By that time, the statute of limitations may have expired.
The bill will also update the definition of commercial sexual activity. Current state law has inconsistent definitions, and does not define the exchange of sex for drugs as commercial sexual activity.
SB 5030 and its companion, House Bill 1078, will:
- Extend the statute of limitations for human trafficking from three to 10 years following commission of the crime (the same as non-lethal arson);
- Extend the statute of limitations for commercial sexual abuse of a minor and promoting sexual abuse to the victim’s 30th birthday (consistent with many other sex crimes against minors);
- Replace “fee” with “anything of value” in the definition of commercial sex in relevant statutes.
Ferguson’s bipartisan legislation is prime-sponsored by Sen. Jeannie Darneille and Rep. Mike Pellicciotti.
“Extending the statutes of limitations for these terrible crimes is long overdue,” said Darneille, D—Tacoma. “These proposed changes will help victims who may need more time and opportunities to bring to justice the people who have committed the crime of human trafficking.”
“As a prosecutor who has prosecuted human trafficking cases, I have seen firsthand how difficult it is for victims to come forward, particularly when they were exploited as minors,” said Pellicciotti, D—Federal Way. “The law must protect these victims, and reflect the seriousness and realities of these crimes.”
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Peter Lavallee, Communications Director, (360) 586-0725; PeterL@atg.wa.gov