February 16, 2020

Bill to increase penalties for human trafficking and expand sex offender registration clears House

Matthew Reichbach

A bill that supporters say will get tough on human trafficking and expand who has to register as a sex offender in the state took another step forward Saturday when the House chamber passed it unanimously.

There was no debate on the bill on the House floor and it passed 66-0.

HB 237 expands the definition of human trafficking to include “harboring, maintaining, patronizing and providing” people for such purposes. It also raises the age definition of “child” from 16 to 18 in cases of forced sex work. It removes the statute of limitations for human trafficking for prosecution. It includes it as a crime that can constitute racketeering.

The bill increases the penalty to a second degree felony and classifies it as a crime a court can judge as a serious violent offense. That would reduce the amount of good time an offender can receive.

The bill would expand those who have to register as a sex offender in New Mexico. If someone has been sanctioned for a sex offense in another jurisdiction or had to register as a sex offender in another state, that person would be required to register as a sex offender in New Mexico. That would be the case even if the person spends only nominal time here. New York City financier Jeffrey Epstein maintained a second home in New Mexico and, though he was a registered sex offender in Florida, he did not have to register as such in New Mexico.

The bill also expands the definition of registered sex offender to include those sanctioned for human trafficking or sexual exploitation of children for sex work.

The bill also seeks to provide greater protections for victims of human trafficking. Trafficked victims who are compelled to engage in sex work will not be charged for prostitution or as accessories to human trafficking. The bill establishes a minimum restitution for the victims by those who trafficked them and prohibits a victim’s sexual history or commercial activity from being used as a defense against human trafficking charges.

The bill  now heads to the Senate.