New Law Puts Spotlight on Human Trafficking

Signs intended to raise awareness about human trafficking are expected to be displayed at rest areas, airports, emergency rooms and strip clubs starting Friday, as a law passed during the 2015 legislative session goes into effect with the new year.

The new law that takes effect this week is one of the last of 232 bills that came out of the 2015 session. The bulk went into effect July 1.

The law (HB 369) focused on raising awareness about human trafficking requires signs to be posted in a wide range of places, including rest areas, turnpike service plazas, weigh stations, welcome centers, airports and strip clubs.

The requirement was part of a series of proposals approved this year and signed by Gov. Rick Scott as Florida attempts to crack down on human trafficking for sex or forced labor. Attorney General Pam Bondi has made the issue one of her top priorities.

The law, requires the Florida Department of Transportation to display English- and Spanish-language signs that are at least 8.5 inches by 11 inches at every rest area, turnpike service plaza, weigh station, primary airport, passenger rail station and welcome center open to the public.

The signs, which include phone and text-message numbers to report trafficking, are also required to go up in hospital emergency rooms and to be “in a conspicuous location that is clearly visible” at strip clubs, adult entertainment establishments and massage parlors.

The law does not impose penalties for failure to comply with the law. However, the measure does give county commissions the ability to set noncriminal fines of up to $500 for strip clubs, adult entertainment establishments and massage parlors.

A trio of other trafficking-related measures from the 2015 session went into effect Oct. 1. They increased criminal penalties for people who solicit others to commit prostitution (HB 465) and created public-records exemptions to protect the identities of human-trafficking victims and to shield the location of safe houses for victims of sexual exploitation (HB 467 and HB 69).

Human trafficking is classified as a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years behind bars. When the crime involves a minor under the age of 18, the penalties are enhanced. Human trafficking cases usually involve a handful of other criminal charges like conspiracy, fraud, and coercion.

A Florida Sex Crimes Lawyer at Whittel & Melton can help you defeat charges associated with human trafficking. As former prosecutors, we have gained years of valuable experience from working with the State to prosecute sex crime cases. If you are facing any sex crime charges in Florida, we can provide you with an aggressive criminal defense. Call us today at 866-608-5529 or contact us online for a free consultation.