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House OKs bill to close human trafficking loopholes

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Human trafficking suspects would lose a pair of defenses under legislation approved Thursday morning.

Bill sponsors said suspects in human trafficking cases often use the third-party defense to get off the hook, saying they paid the victim for their services and not their trafficker.

The bill includes language to clarify paying with the intent to obtain any service provided by a trafficking victim is a crime. The measure also prevents suspects from using a victim’s consent as a defense and allows a trafficking survivor to provide a video statement if they are still under 18 when their case goes to trial, rather than facing their accuser in court. The bill got unanimous votes in both chambers of the General Assembly.

The bill’s progress pleased trafficking survivor advocates like Beth White, the CEO of the Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault & Human Trafficking. She says trafficking victims are in no position to give any kind of consent.

White says clarifying what constitutes human trafficking will lead to more convictions, likening the situation to bringing down drug traffickers.

“We have to have clarity around these crimes so that we can successfully prosecute people,” White said. “And what we’ve seen in other states and other jurisdictions is that kind of language facilitates successful prosecution of the people who are engaging in the trafficking.”

The bill originated in the Senate. The House made a technical change, so it has to go back to the Senate before it can head to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s desk.