Gov. Northam signs bill to help keep human traffickers in jail

NORFOLK, Va. -- With a stroke of the pen, Governor Ralph Northam signed legislation on Monday to help protect victims of human trafficking.

House Bill 1260, carried by Delegate Mike Mullin (D-Newport News) and championed by Attorney General Mike Herring, adds human trafficking to the list of crimes for which bail can be denied.

Northam signed the legislation at the Norfolk Police Department's 3rd Precinct, since the legislation was recommended by the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force.

"In the past these individuals would get out on bond and a couple of things could happen," Northam stated. "One thing, they could flee or another thing, they could be in contact with the victims."

According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, Virginia ranks 15th in the United States for the most reported cases of human trafficking.  In 2017, the state reported 148 cases, with 59 cases involving children.

In the past, prosecutors argued that traffickers would simply bail themselves out of jail and then their victims, continuing the cycle of abuse.

Attorney General Mike Herring says human trafficking is a dehumanizing crime that must be combated with tough laws.

"Human trafficking robs victims of their dignity, their identity, their freedom and in a tragic number of cases, their childhood," said Herring.

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 of 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 prostitute and commercial sex trafficking, where the alleged victim is a family or household member.