Arizona Human Trafficking Laws
Human trafficking remains a serious problem for Arizona because of the state’s network of freeways and the geographic location. According to 2016 information, the increase in human trafficking cases was 30 percent. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, there were 151 Arizona cases reported to the hotline, up from 117 cases in 2015. Stronger Arizona human trafficking laws and increased awareness are the two factors that could have contributed to the increase. Over the years, Arizona has worked on creating better laws that prosecute perpetrators and offer protection to the victims.
The Most Important Arizona Human Trafficking Laws
Human trafficking and its consequences are outlined in several Arizona regulations. According to the state definition, human trafficking refers to the trade of human beings for the purpose of sexual exploitation, commercial exploitation and slavery. Forced labor is also included in the definition of human trafficking. A person found guilty of human trafficking will face felony charges. The severity of the penalty will depend on the aggravating factors. Human trafficking crimes committed against minors and children are the ones prosecuted most severely.
The primary law pertaining to human trafficking in the state is the Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation Prevention Act. This act is currently being amended in a number of ways to strengthen the regulatory framework.
In addition, several bills have been introduced through the years for the same purpose.
House Bill 2454 from 2014 was introduced to increase the penalties for human trafficking. In addition, it improves the protective measures that both victims and vulnerable individuals are entitled to.
According to the Bill, the sentence for a first-time offender is increased from 10.5 to 13.5 years in prison. A trafficker who has a previous felony conviction will see a longer sentence of 25 instead of 15.75 years. Finally, the sentence for people who have two or more prior felonies is increased from 28 to 31 years.
House Bill 2454 also introduces a couple of additional changes to previous human trafficking laws. The key ones include:
- Any prior felony conviction (not just a human trafficking charge) will lead to an increased sentence for second time and repeat offenders
- There is an affirmative defense created for victims of sex trafficking
- The establishment of minor prostitution advertising as a Class 2 felony
- The addition of sex trafficking and child prostitution to the list of racketeering acts
The Arizona Human Trafficking Council
Apart from the regulatory framework aimed at countering human trafficking, Arizona also has a Human Trafficking Council. It was developed to provide victims with comprehensive assistance, to evaluate data about human trafficking on the territory of Arizona, to report to the governor and work towards better coordination of the responsible law enforcement agencies.
One of the biggest problems that the Council is currently attempting to combat is the fact that many victims, especially youth at risk, do not report human and sex trafficking crime.
Because there is no evidence of trafficking, the vulnerable victims and youth aren’t placed under the surveillance of child welfare agencies. These individuals also resist contact with law enforcement agencies, which makes it impossible to eradicate established trafficking rinks.
Cities in Arizona are also responsible for the enforcement of their own measures against human trafficking.
In 2014, the City Council in Phoenix introduced a five-year plan aimed at increasing awareness and combating human trafficking. Training for businesses and organizations, as well as a mass information campaign are the primary activities aimed at reducing trafficking in Phoenix significantly.
By 2020, Phoenix is also set at increasing the range of protective and counseling services that victims will be entitled to.
A number of organizations are also responsible for increasing awareness and pushing for legislative change. Some of the most prominent organizations include the Arizona League to End Regional Trafficking, The Underage Sex-Trafficking Coalition and Training and Resources United to Stop Trafficking.