By TCCRI Staff. Feb. 26, 2020
TCCRI submitted to the Senate Committee on State Affairs detailing the extensive measures that Texas had taken to combat Human Trafficking. The following are the key recommendations for further action that we made to the Committee. Click here to read the full testimony.
In the 87th session, the Legislature should consider the following reforms:
Provide the OAG with concurrent jurisdiction over trafficking cases. The most important change Texas can make in its anti-trafficking approach is to give the OAG the power to prosecute trafficking crimes. In Texas, most criminal prosecutions are the responsibility of local prosecutors, although the OAG and the federal governments have the power to prosecute some crimes under certain circumstances. It is clear that Texas has strong punishments in place for traffickers and growing public awareness of the problem of trafficking. Nevertheless, prosecutions for trafficking are still surprisingly uncommon. Local prosecutors declining to bring trafficking charges may lack time, resources, and anti-trafficking expertise. The OAG, in contrast, created a specialized unit in 2016 that is devoted to fighting trafficking- the Human Trafficking and Transnational/Organized Crime Section. Among other actions, this unit played a key role in coordinating law enforcement efforts with the federal government against Backpage.com. As the Legislative Budget Board has noted, “[t]he Human Trafficking and Transnational/Organized Crime Section has prosecutorial expertise and resources for human-trafficking cases that some local prosecutors may lack, but the circumstances within which it can participate in these cases are limited.”Currently, local prosecutors can, but are not required to, request assistance from the OAG on trafficking cases.
An attempt in the 86th session was made to provide the OAG with concurrent jurisdiction with local prosecutors in trafficking cases, with the qualifier that the OAG would have concurrent jurisdiction over trafficking cases confined to a single county only if the local prosecutor consented or first refused to prosecute the case. Unfortunately, this legislation (SB 1257/HB 3979) was not enacted into law. The Legislature should reconsider it in the 87th session.
Eliminate the possibility of parole for anyone convicted of trafficking a minor. While Texas laws against trafficking already provide significant criminal penalties, it would be appropriate for the law to provide even stiffer penalties for the evil of trafficking children.