To truly combat human trafficking, the United States needs a Unified Law. One important way to end modern day slavery is through a strengthened legal system.
Understanding the definition of human trafficking can be hard enough, and wading through individual states statutes and proposed legislation can seem impossible to even the most seasoned attorney.
Statistics are not reliable due to under reporting. In 2013 the FBI began a much needed tracking and identifying program. The 2008 reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) required the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report to include human trafficking and data collection from police departments.
Anti-trafficking efforts appear to be improving for the better with the many state legislative efforts across the country increasing. The many gaps and variants in these legislation efforts show however, the problem of not identifying victims and few prosecutions of human trafficking. This is why the vast majority of prosecutors are not yet seeing human trafficking cases in their courtrooms across the country.
Today, every state has human trafficking or related criminal statutes. However, these laws are as varied as the states themselves. The definitions of human trafficking and the elements also widely differ.
Thus the need for a Uniform law. The Uniform Law Commission (ULC), now in its 122nd year, includes more than 350 practicing lawyers, governmental lawyers, judges, law professors, and lawyer-legislators from each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Commissioners are appointed by their states to draft and promote enactment of uniform laws that are designed to solve problems common to all the states.
Currently, some state laws only address sex trafficking of minors. Others laws merge together smuggling and trafficking, which are different crimes. The vast majority of state trafficking laws do not include victim assistance or protection from arrest based on offenses committed as a result of being trafficked. Understanding the various legislation and existing laws in each state is very difficult.
A uniform law in all states would help remedy this and other confusion surrounding human trafficking. Adopting uniform law statewide would enable survivors and victims of human trafficking and the advocates and organizations that aim to aid, restore and rehabilitate them to first ensure that the ability to find employment, housing, banking, and education that is not hindered by the stigma of a criminal record.
Vacating convictions and immunity of prosecution of minors, restitution for survivors, and the ability to access the civil legal system for compensation is all part of the uniform law. When in place in all states, this uniform law will enable all agencies federal, state and local to identify victims, provide services, and prosecute traffickers.
The Uniform Act on the Prevention of and Remedies for Human Trafficking provides all states with a model for improvements to combat human trafficking. Further information on the UAPRHT can be found at the ULC’s website at www.uniformlaws.org.