Today, state Senator Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) announced the Ohio Senate’s unanimous passage of House Bill 431, which was amended to include her legislation to protect trafficked minors.
“This legislation finally removes the arbitrary, two-tiered system of treating 16 and 17 year olds differently than other children who are survivors of human trafficking,” Fedor said. “This gap in our protections has left thousands of children in Ohio vulnerable and forced our justice system to treat them as criminals, instead of the victims they are.”
The Protect Trafficked Minors Act, which Senator Fedor originally sponsored as Senate Bill 13, modifies an Ohio law that currently requires prosecutors to demonstrate proof that force, fraud or coercion was used during the trafficking of a 16- or 17-year-old in order for them to qualify for the Safe Harbor protections granted to other minors. This gap has led to traffickers targeting 16- and 17-year-olds because of a reduced chance that they will face legal consequences.
The Protect Trafficked Minors Act passed the Ohio House 83-3 in December 2018, but ran out of time to get through the Senate before the end of the 132nd General Assembly. It was identified as a priority bill at the beginning of the 133rd General Assembly, passing out of the Senate with unanimous support in July 2019.
“This is a historical moment in the fight to end human trafficking in Ohio,” Fedor continued, “It has taken 15 years for me to pass this legislation, and over those years our laws have failed many children. Today, we paved the way to freedom for so many. Finally, all Ohio children can be rescued, not arrested, from the horrors of human trafficking.”
House Bill 431 now goes to back to the House, where it will be voted on for concurrence.