The state of Michigan has taken aggressive action against sex crimes involving human trafficking in recent years. Laws passed by the Legislature that went into effect in 2011 focused on lengthy prison sentences for people convicted of putting other people into involuntary prostitution or other forms of servitude. Now one lawmaker believes that pursuing felony charges against those found guilty of soliciting prostitution will help resolve the problem of human trafficking.

State Sen. Judy Emmons, R-Sheridan, plans to introduce a bill that would make solicitation of a 16- or 17-year-old prostitute a felony on the first offense. Under current state law, solicitation of a minor is misdemeanor on the first and second offenses. A felony conviction generally means that the defendant could face at least one year in prison.

The Kalamazoo Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition has its own proposals for changes to the law to combat human trafficking in Michigan. The group focuses at least in part on making it easier for teenage prostitutes to escape the life without criminal penalties. For example, the coalition says that minors engaged in involuntary prostitution should be exempt from criminal prosecution or be able to have their criminal records expunged.

A person arrested for solicitation of a minor may not have known that the age of the alleged prostitute or may have been led to believe he or she was over 18. If this law passes, it will be more important than ever for someone arrested for solicitation to seek legal advice.

Source: MLive, "Michigan lawmaker: 'Fix all the spots that are weak' in state's human trafficking laws," Tim Martin, Feb. 12, 2013

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