New bill adds human trafficking to likes of murder, robbery and rape

AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va (WHSV) — Governor Ralph Northam signed a bill on Monday afternoon that adds human trafficking to a list of crimes for which bail can be denied.

People charged with offenses related to human trafficking will be presumed to be held without bail.

Human Trafficking now joins the rankings of murder, rape and robbery, meaning if charged with those crimes, a person is presumed to be held without bail.

The bill was supported by Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring and it was carried by Delegate Mike Mullen. The bill was recommended by the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force.

Members of the task force found that traffickers would pay their own bill to avoid prosecution and bail out their victims, continuing the vicious cycle.

“Human trafficking is a threat to public safety here in Virginia and across the United States,” said Governor Northam. “This legislation will help us prevent these crimes by making it more difficult for human traffickers to post bail and leave jail to intimidate witnesses or continue their criminal activity. I am proud to sign this legislation today and I thank Delegate Mullin and Attorney General Herring for their commitment to this issue.”

A person who receives a charge of human trafficking could fight being held without bail, if they have a lack of criminal history, local family ties, a job, or have lived in the area for a number of years. The Commonwealth's Attorney for Augusta County, Tim Martin, said the bill will be beneficial, because usually the people in the business of trafficking move to an area to make quick money.

"Obviously, by nature of the business, they aren't from here, so they don't have those family ties, and they are very likely to disappear, and that makes it so we can't keep them accountable," said Martin.

He said the lack of bail will keep them in jail, and in the area, which will hold them responsible for their crime.

"This is a great thing, and of course, I say it's a great thing, human traffickers would say it's a terrible thing, so it's all a matter of perspective, I suppose," said Martin.

He said human trafficking does happen in the Shenandoah Valley, and this bill in Virginia will help in the future, calling it a "step in the right direction."

The legislation adds the following offenses that are attributable to human trafficking to the list of crimes for which there is a rebuttable presumption against admission to bail:

• Taking or detaining a person for the purposes of prostitution or unlawful sexual intercourse,
• Receiving money from procuring or placing a person in a house of prostitution or forced labor,
• Receiving money from the earnings of a prostitute, and
• Commercial sex trafficking, where the alleged victim is a family or household member.