COLUMBUS – The justice system is one step closer to helping those that are victims of human trafficking after State Representative Susan Manchester’s (R-Waynesfield) House Bill 427 passed unanimously out of House Criminal Justice Committee recently.
“House Bill 427 will help remove obstacles prosecutors face when trying to hold traffickers accountable under current Ohio law,” said Manchester. “Right now, they must jump through the legal hoops of proving that drugs and addiction can be used as a weapon against these victims.”
House Bill 427 would expand the current definition of compelling a victim to include the use of a controlled substance or manipulation of a controlled substance addiction.
Currently, there are two human trafficking charges, Trafficking in Persons and Compelling Prostitution. These two charges define the term compel as ‘the victim's will was overcome by force, fear, duress, intimidation or fraud.’
“When drugs are used to coerce or control victims, physical or verbal violence is not always necessary,” said Manchester. “Addiction and withdrawal are incredibly powerful weapons that traffickers regularly use to “compel” their victims to comply with their demands and engage in sexual activity for hire or involuntary servitude.”
Ohio is one of the top five states in the nation for reported trafficking cases. In 2020 law enforcement reported 216 human trafficking investigations leading to 76 arrests and 18 successful criminal convictions. There were a total of 148 potential victims identified, including 146 potential victims of sex trafficking. 106 of the victims identified drugs, alcohol or other dependencies as a contributing factor to being trafficked.
House Bill 427 will now head to the House floor for a vote.