Houman Fakhimi

Georgia Sex Trafficking Law Goes into Effect and may Influence Orange County Sex Cases

After a four year battle by lawmakers in Georgia, the state has a new law dealing with victims of human trafficking, The Associated Press reports.

Under the new law, people who are the victim of trafficking can't be prosecuted for sex crimes. It is common for those forced into servitude be used to prostitute themselves to make money for others. Commonly, women are hooked on drugs by their pimps and forced to work to feed their drug habit.

Orange County Criminal Defense Lawyers applaud that aspect of the law because a girl brought from a foreign country and forced into modern-day slavery shouldn't be charged with a crime. But there are other aspects of the new law that are troublesome, especially for those charged with sex crimes in Orange County and elsewhere.

Also under the new law, according to The Associated Press, someone who is convicted of coercing to traffic someone under 18 has to serve a minimum of 25 years in prison. Anyone who pays to have sex with someone under 18 faces at least five years in prison, while the penalty jumps to 10 years if the person is 16.

The measure includes protections that allow a prostituted child or adult to avoid charges if they can prove they were coerced into it. Coercion can mean physical abuse, but also financial harm, destruction of immigration documents and drug use. And victims can be eligible to receive state money for treatment if they cooperate with law enforcement.

While the new law does provide protection for those forced into prostitution against their will, the penalties seem a bit out of whack. And it is likely that most people who pay to have sex don't check the age of the person with whom they're sleeping. This is another potential flaw in the new legislation, which could leave a defendant open to excessive penalties.

Politicians are quick to jump on hot-button topics to show they're "tough on crime."

Consider this: In Georgia, manslaughter -- the killing of a person in the heat of passion after provocation -- is punishable by 1 to 20 years in prison. So, in Georgia, you can kill a person and serve less time, possibly only one year in prison, than if you are convicted under this new law.

The Associated Press cites advocates that say the Georgia law could be a model for other states seeking to fight the sex trade, but it is concerning that while tough penalties can be a deterrent, they can lead to overcrowded prisons and jails and lead to unfair treatment in the criminal justice system. California is already dealing with an order to release thousands of inmates from its crowded prisons.

It's possible that California politicians will look at the Georgia law and try to run with it to show that they, too, are "tough on crime." But Orange County Criminal Defense Lawyers hope that sound reason and research go into a law in California and that they don't just jump to try to satisfy the public.

Contact an Orange County criminal defense attorney at (714) 705-6701 as soon as possible if you are charged with a crime.