Law expands protections for juvenile sex-trafficking victims

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Gov. Chris Sununu has signed a bill that expands protections for juvenile victims of sex trafficking, one of 12 measures put his signature to Monday.

The law protects children from criminal penalties for non-violent crimes, such as stealing and drug dealing. New Hampshire already prohibits child sex-trafficking victims from being prosecuted for prostitution, lewdness and indecent exposure.

Supporters of the bill said children could be forced into committing the offenses. The bill also allows juvenile victims to petition to vacate a court finding of delinquency.

The measure has broad support, including from groups such as the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence and the Diocese of Manchester.

At least seven states have legislation similar to New Hampshire’s and other states are looking at expanding their non-criminalization laws to include offenses beyond prostitution.

Among the other bills Sununu signed are commissions to study the creation of a state energy department and another on aging; increasing fines for some ATV and snowmobile operation violations; and the counting of a ballot in a municipal vote if the voter’s intent can be determined, regardless of whether the voter followed instructions.