Supreme Court proposes tougher penalties for prostitution and human trafficking

Criminal penalties for prostitution and human trafficking may soon be tougher for some and lighter for others, and victims of dating violence may receive expanded protections as new proposals move through the SC Senate.

Last week, a group of lawmakers approved a series of measures aimed at protecting minors involved in prostitution and trafficking, along with another proposal that aims to change the definition of “dating” in matters related to domestic violence, giving more people the right to protection. . orders.

domestic violence

In a state historically known for high levels of domestic violence, Senate Bill S.143 would allow victims of date violence who never lived with their abuser to apply for a restraining order in family court, not just a restraining order in magistrates’ court. , which does not provide the immediate and more serious safeguards offered by a Domestic Violence Protection Order.

Dating violence victims are not currently eligible for protection orders. Those currently eligible for protection orders include only current or former spouses, those who have children together, or those who live or used to live with a member of the opposite sex.

“We support this bill because we believe it extends life-saving protections to both adolescents and adults who are victims of dating violence and provides a simple clarification of the definition of “cohabiting partners,” said Sarah Barber, executive director of the Coalition. South Carolina Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.

Barber says the current limited pool of qualifications doesn’t take into account the various contexts in which dating takes place today.

“I’ve been dating someone in person for 10 years now; we never lived together, we don’t have children in common, ”she said. “Thus, at this point in time, I am not entitled to an order of protection, even if the dynamics of violence that took place in this relationship would be the same as in what is currently covered by family membership.”

The story goes on

The Senate proposal also seeks to replace language limiting legal assistance to relationships between men and women, which Barber said has regularly led to confusion among courts, lawyers and victims. With the proposed changes, people in same-sex relationships will now be offered the same protections currently available to those in heterosexual relationships.

“This confusion often resulted in qualifying victims believing or being told they were not entitled to the protection of the law,” Barber said.

In 2019, South Carolina law enforcement began tracking ex-boyfriend and ex-girlfriend relationship data for crimes of murder, intimidation, aggravated assault, and simple intimate partner assault.

According to a 2021 South Carolina Law Enforcement Report, 58% of intimate partner homicide victims were killed at the hands of someone classified as a boyfriend or girlfriend.

“I will say that the statistics that[Barber]has given us is a problem in South Carolina,” said State Senator Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg County, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee. “I mean, violence between people in relationships is a problem and we need to address it.”

Prostitution and human trafficking

The Hatto group also approved two other measures that would increase penalties for prostitution while protecting minors and victims of human trafficking from criminal prosecution.

Senate Bill S.145 would result in higher fines and more jail time for perpetrators of prostitution, even on the first offense, and includes gender-neutral language replacing “woman” with “man”, criminalizing those who solicit prostitutes of any gender.

Any adult convicted of prostitution is currently subject to a $200 fine and up to 30 days in prison for the first offense. But under the new proposal, offenders could face fines of up to $1,000, a month in jail, or both on their first arrest.

The bill has been introduced to the Senate several times, including in 2021 when it passed the upper house, but later stalled in the House of Representatives.

The new law, if passed by both houses this time, would allow those caught prostituting as victims of human trafficking to be protected from prosecution. Minors, on the other hand, will not be prosecuted at all.

Another juvenile protection bill, S.142, prevents trafficked minors from being prosecuted for non-violent crimes committed in connection with their involvement in trafficking, such as possession of alcohol or marijuana.

“It won’t save you from murder, or bank robbery, or anything like that. It should be a non-violent crime,” Hatto said.

S.142, S.143, and S.145 are currently being submitted to the full Judiciary Committee for approval before being heard on the Senate floor.

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