Legislation from state Rep. Bronna Kahle, which expands “safe harbor” protections to victims of human trafficking, was unanimously approved by the state Senate today and advances the bill to the governor’s desk.
House Bill 4219 will update the deferred sentencing laws regarding human trafficking to protect more victims from criminal prosecution, enacting a recommendation of the Human Trafficking Commission.
“We needed a compassionate solution to help protect the victims of human trafficking, giving them the opportunity to put the criminal behavior associated with this awful crime in their past,” Kahle said. “The victims of these heinous crimes should be treated like victims, not like criminals.”
Current law gives courts the flexibility to place an adult arrested for prostitution-type offenses in a deferred sentencing program if he or she is determined to be a victim of human trafficking. Kahle’s bill expands the eligibility provisions of that law to protect more victims, and allows victims to receive counseling and avoid a criminal conviction on their record.
Kahle had significant support for the legislation as Adrian resident Kelly Castleberry, who serves on the Southern Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force, testified during House committee in early March. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has pledged his support, stating the legislation “helps a victim set their record straight and allows them to secure a job or continue their education.”
The bill was unanimously approved by the state House in late March.
“The victims of human trafficking deserve to have equally strong support,” Kahle said.