February 5, 2013: Newly elected Assemblyman (and majority whip) Chris Holden (D-Pasadena/San Gabriel Valley), at left, has introduced AB 156, legislation designed to make it possible for law enforcement officers to be able to get a court order for a wiretap when they suspect human trafficking of minors. Holden was endorsed in his Assembly bid by State Attorney General Kamala Harris, who has made human trafficking a core focus of her office (and who is increasingly mentioned as a "shoo-in" for President Obama's next Supreme Court nomination).
Currently, law enforcement is authorized to obtain a court order to wiretap for investigation of drug trafficking or criminal gang activity, but that authorizationn is not extended to investigations of human trafficking.
On his website Holden says, "You would think in this day and age when traffickers have become more sophisticated, law enforcement would have all the tools it needs to stop these criminals. But you would be wrong...this bill will change that and help stop this modern-day slavery..."
John Lovell, legislative advocate for the Association of California Police Chiefs said, "California's wiretap laws have been crucial in going after complex, multi-level criminal activities. The reality is that human trafficking is an organized criminal enterprise, and the full range of enforcement tools are needed to combat this particular crime."
The increasing awareness of human trafficking resulted in Californians overwhelmingly (81%) passing Proposition 35 last November, which mandates harsher fines and prison sentences for persons convicted of sex trafficking of a minor (see full story below).
Written by Taylor McCulloch.
At left, Daphne Phung, a financial analyst from Fremont who was the driving force behind the creation of the proposition and its progress from drafting to signatures to the ballot to law. The campaign was backed by "more than $2 million" from Christ Kelly, Facebook's former privacy chief.
...the measure was also drafted to prevent re-victimization, prohibiting evidence of commercial sex acts by those were trafficked from being used against the victims in court.
Last week, Victoria Kim, reporting in the Los Angeles Times, noted that the proposition was "surprisingly controversial," noting:
... the proposition faces opposition from some veteran advocates and academics in the field of human trafficking who say the proposition, while bringing much-needed attention to the issue, is misguided and would probably have unintended consequences that could end up harming trafficking victims. They say the measure's approach of simply toughening penalties would do little to combat a multifaceted problem.
"At the core of their campaign is emotion and not fact, and not a true understanding of what's going on," said John Vanek, a retired lieutenant from the San Jose Police Department who works as a consultant on trafficking and has sat on state and federal committees on the issue.
Critics expressed concern that the hefty criminal fines that would be imposed under the proposition would hurt the chances of victims to be compensated in civil court — a process they said is a fundamental part of making a victim of human trafficking whole.