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Committees discuss trafficking, sex crimes, child protection

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A tougher state law for human and child trafficking was a key topic on this week’s legislative interim study committees agendas. With the Super Bowl less than six months away, the Indiana attorney general’s office is pushing for prompt action.

Legislative study committee members explored other issues during meetings on Thursday, talking about child protection, sex offenders, and if any change in Indiana law is needed in response to concerns that surfaced following the Casey Anthony trial in Florida. But it was the AG’s push on trafficking that seemed to be the most time-sensitive item.

Deputy Attorneys General David Miller and Abby Kuzma told members of the Code Evaluation Commission that the human trafficking issue is a top priority this year for Indiana AG Greg Zoeller and the National Association of Attorneys General.

Providing statistics that trafficking is a $32 billion global industry impacting more than 12 million children and adults who are shipped from the U.S. across international borders, the Hoosier attorneys said this is already a federal crime but that states need to beef up their protections to deal with it.

Specifically, they contend that big-draw events such as the Super Bowl, coming to Indianapolis in early February, make this a priority for Indiana. Other past Super Bowl locations have experienced trafficking during their events, they explained. Kuzma is part of a task force to address this issue in Indiana that includes the U.S. attorney.

The General Assembly added Indiana Code 35-42-3.5-1 addressing human trafficking years ago, but the statute is too weak, according to Miller. He said lawmakers should consider eliminating the “threat or force” elements of the statute because sometimes that doesn’t apply to these situations, and the law should be broadened to include more generalized criminal activity that may occur during trafficking. The Legislature should also consider adding a specific child trafficking provision for victims younger than 18, he said.

With the next legislative session starting in January 2012, lawmakers discussed the possibility of addressing this measure either on Organization Day in November or possibly with an early filing of a bill to allow the issue to be addressed promptly once the session begins in January.

Committee members didn’t vote on that item. They spent the remainder of the meeting discussing sex offenders and recidivism trends. They discussed re-evaluating housing restrictions as well as layered sentencing options that would enable courts to make sure certain sex offenders receive sufficient supervision and behavioral treatment services after their incarceration periods. Members examined a proposal from Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport, about expanding criminal code to apply to Internet sex predators that can be difficult to prosecute.

No votes were taken on these or other proposals discussed.

Members of the Criminal Law and Sentencing Committee also met and discussed creation of a new child protection registry that would mirror Indiana’s existing Do Not Call lists and give parents the ability to submit email addresses that children have access to in order to prevent certain age-sensitive marketing materials from being sent. Michigan and Utah have established these registries in the past decade, and the company offering those tools is trying to bring its services to Indiana.

The committee also briefly addressed the need for a Casey Anthony-inspired law in Indiana and whether the state statute on penalties for failing to report a dead body or missing child needed to be strengthened. No one seemed eager to make changes or discuss the idea and no one appeared at the hearing to discuss it, leaving the committee to decide existing statutes may be adequate. Failing to report a dead body within three hours is currently a misdemeanor in Indiana.

Next week, the Commission on Courts meets to discuss new court and judicial officer requests. The Indiana Legislative Council’s subcommittee studying the Indiana Supreme Court’s Barnes v. State is also scheduled to meet.
 

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