DENVER–Governor Polis on Monday signed in to law a bill that gives victims of human trafficking who are minors immunity against prosecution for prostitution, as well as an affirmative defense for other crimes they may be a part of as a result of coercion.
State Senator Paul Lundeen, R-Monument–one of the prime sponsors of the bill–Tweeted out after the signing ceremony, thanking fellow Senate sponsor Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, and writing: “Now children who are forced into sex trafficking will be treated as victims and survivors not criminals.”
Senate Bill 19-185 creates immunity for minors from prosecution for prostitution-related offenses if there is probable cause that that the minor was a victim of human trafficking for either “involuntary servitude” or “sexual servitude” at the time of the offense. In those cases, the minor is “immune from criminal liability or juvenile delinquency proceeding for such charges.”
The law also creates an affirmative defense for minors involved in the trafficking of other minors if they can prove by a preponderance of the evidence that they were victims of trafficking themselves at the time.
A ‘preponderance of the evidence’ is a lower burden of proof than the ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ the prosecution must prove in a criminal case.
The affirmative defense also covers any other criminal charges for offenses committed while under the coercion of a trafficker, except for Class 1 felonies, the most serious felony classification. An example would be a minor forced in to dealing drugs.
There already exists in Colorado law an affirmative defense for prostitution-related charges for victims of human trafficking at any age, SB 185 takes a further step in creating the outright immunity for minors.
The legislative declaration of the bill states, in part: “Protecting minors who are victims of human trafficking from further trauma by recognizing them as victims rather than criminals is beneficial for the minors involved and therefore in the public interest.”
“The bill makes it clear. A child forced into sex trafficking is a victim and a survivor,” Lundeen told Complete Colorado. “Each of the last five years I have served in the General Assembly I have brought a bill to advance this effort. We have given law enforcement new tools, we have provided more services to victims. Now we are shifting the culture in a meaningful way.”