It’s been more than a decade since Texas turned its focus to sex trafficking inside U.S. borders. In recent months, the effects seem to be reaching the streets.
Take one offender, convicted of human trafficking for associating with traffickers – he’s currently facing five life sentences. His conviction comes on the tail of Gov. Greg Abott signing five new bills taking hard aim at the sex trafficking trade.
The new legislation is a response to the in-depth examination of state law, its efficacy, and its limitations, and support comes in the form of a $54 million budget with the promise to continue funding indefinitely.
In today’s post, we cover what these newly passed bills address, and how the law works. Facing charges with an experienced Texas sex trafficking defense attorney by your side may mean the difference between life-long consequences and the possibility of getting another chance.
Texas House Bill 8: Rape Kit Audit and Process
Massive blunders law enforcement have been making in the processing of rape kits statewide may have provided loopholes in offenders’ cases before, but House Bill 8 intends to close them.
A full system audit will include record numbers, location, and the current status of all filed rape kits. Authorities have also been tasked with designating a timeline for lab processing limited to 90 days.
Additionally, to remedy backlogs, HB8 changes the statute of limitations, too:
● Time limits have been completely eliminated on sexual assault cases currently involving untested forensic evidence.
● The state is now prohibited from destroying rape kits until the statute of limitations expires or 40 years have passed, whichever timeframe is longer.
Texas Senate Bill 20: Criminal Recordkeeping and Access to It
Article 5 now offers a boost to protections for human trafficking survivors by allowing them increased access to nondisclosure orders that would otherwise keep certain criminal records sealed.
A court order of nondisclosure is when a judge seals conviction (and sometimes other) records. Those who have previously been able to have records expunged may face increased penalties for any future charges related to online human and sex trafficking due to this legal update.
Texas Senate Bill 71: Higher Standards in Forensic Evidence Collection
A new “statewide telehealth center” will now connect nurses who specialize in sexual assault exams to the medical care providers who are performing them.
They understand the appropriate approach with assault victims and collection processes ensuring “forensic evidence is collected in a way that will be upheld in court.” This includes understanding unspoken cues of sex trafficking victims.
These efforts will increase offenders’ likelihood of being convicted exponentially. We imagine that defenses regarding evidence tampering and mishandling will hold up in court less and less often in the future.
Texas House Bill 1590: Sexual Assault Survivor’s Task Force
The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement has long served as the guiding hub for local law enforcement training and policy.
As efforts to curtail sex trafficking continue to swell, the Office of Attorney General for the state will lean on the Commission’s expertise. Because of this, the Sexual Assault Survivor’s Task Force has been created.
This task force will provide advice and education regarding future legislation on evidence handling, and improvements in training local law enforcement officers who may work on sexual assault and trafficking cases.
Texas House Bill 2613: Stamp Out Stash Houses
The last measure signed makes the facilitation of prostitution and sex trafficking via stash house a crime. In other words, if Texas law enforcement finds you’ve been hosting these illegal activities or other evidence pointing to sex trafficking, you will be charged.
What’s more, any contraband, cash or other items of value seized may be considered asset forfeiture and applied toward help for human trafficking survivors. If the cops can link your property to sex trafficking activity, you’re likely to lose it.
Sex trafficking charges in Texas have been serious business for quite some time, and these five bills are taking it to another level. They will take effect September 1, 2019.
About the Author:
Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU, and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth, making sure they receive the strongest possible defense when they find themselves on the wrong side of the law. He has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.