Idaho Senate 3-1-19

The Idaho Senate meets on Friday.

BOISE — In an effort to better address human trafficking in Idaho, the Senate unanimously passed a bill Tuesday to extend protections for victims in the case they’re charged with a nonviolent crime.

“This is a really significant piece of legislation — this provides that safe harbor,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Abby Lee R-Fruitland.

With the legislation, prosecutors are required to divert, or reroute out of the criminal justice system, minors who commit nonviolent offenses, so long as the crime is determined to be a direct result of having been a victim to human trafficking. This includes crimes such as prostitution.

The bill, which adds to existing law’s “Safe Harbor Provision,” would give human trafficking victims an “affirmative defense,” meaning if the victim provides credible evidence, then criminal or civil liability is nullified, even if the victim did commit the crime.

If a minor is diverted, S1003 requires a child be placed in a state residential facility, providing a rehabilitative program with access to services like case management, trauma recovery, education and employment training, among others.

“The problem is that merely dealing with the criminal offenses that may have been charged as a result of human trafficking doesn’t restore the hopes and the ability to dream of a successful future ... to a victim of human trafficking. This is a good step in moving that direction,” Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell, said. ”There is significant pervasive physiological damage done to these victims.

The bill, Rice said, takes it out of the hands of a prosecutor and puts it in the hands of a judge and the victim to find the best solution to help “restore hope and self-worth.”This is one of two bills proposed this session by a subcommittee of the the Idaho Criminal Justice Commission, which was created to examine human trafficking in Idaho and ways to address it.

The second bill, S1005, updates the language and laws of Idaho’s current human trafficking law. It has passed through the Senate and is now headed to the House floor for a vote.

Savannah Cardon is the Caldwell reporter for the Idaho Press. Follow her on Twitter, @savannahlcardon, or reach her at 208-465-8172.