Senate Judiciary and Rules committee moves forward with human trafficking, blue alert system bills

January 17, 2019

BOISE — The Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee moved forward with three new bills Wednesday afternoon that would expand human trafficking laws and establish an alert system for suspects who have harmed or injured law enforcement officers.

A year-and-a-half ago, the Idaho Criminal Justice Commission — a committee of multiple law enforcement agencies and lawmakers — developed a human trafficking subcommittee to look at how the issue presents in Idaho and how to address it.

Eric Fredericksen, chairman on the committee, presented their findings in the form of two new bills: one to extend protections to victims of human trafficking who committed an offense while in the situation and one updating the language and laws of the current human trafficking Idaho statute.

The “Safe Harbor Provision” grants protection from criminal prosecution to victims of human trafficking who are minors and have committed an offense as a direct result of being a victim.

Many judicial bodies have this discretion, said Fredericksen, but this bill solidifies it.

“The purpose behind the bill is identifying and addressing the struggles victims have in human trafficking cases,” he said.

With the new provision in hand, the human trafficking subcommittee evaluated and introduced updates to current Idaho statutes on the issue.

The subcommittee stressed the importance of recognizing that human trafficking is a problem in Idaho and that law enforcement officers need education and training to properly address the issue.

Common feedback Fredericksen said he has heard from law enforcement officers is that they have difficulty identifying human trafficking cases and don’t know when a situation may warrant an investigation or simply “looks off.”

By statute, human trafficking is an enhancement offense and can only be charged if an individual has committed another offense. The new bill would make human trafficking a stand-alone offense and its own charge for individuals who have committed it.

The bill also includes updated definitions of “sex trafficking” and “commercial sexual activity.”

“It’s an important issue that we have to get our hands on to understand it and eliminate it as best as we can,” said Sen. Todd Lakey, senate committee chairman.

The committee also moved forward with a bill aimed at protecting officers in the line of duty. Presented by Lt. Col. Sheldon Kelley, deputy director of the Idaho State Police, spoke to the committee on the implementation of a Blue Alert System. In 2015, Congress established a voluntary nationwide Blue Alert System — which more than 30 states have employed.

The system would be administered by the ISP and similar to an Amber Alert. When an officer has been threatened, injured, killed or missing in action and a suspect has been identified, the ISP has authority to blast alerts of the suspect’s description.

The bill was moved forward by the committee without discussion. All three will be printed and reviewed again by the committee before being determined if they should continue to move forward to the House for a vote.

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