On Tuesday, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed legislation that will allow victims of human and sex trafficking to take civil action against their perpetrators and anyone else who contributes to their abuse.
Representative Shawnna Bolick introduced HB2116 which received unanimous legislative support. HB2116 stipulates that:
- A person who engages in the trafficking of another person or a person who benefits from participating in a venture that traffics another person is liable to the person trafficked for damages that arise during the trafficking period.
- Acquittal, no prosecution or criminal conviction, or conviction of a different offense or of a different type or class of offense do not qualify as a defense to liability.
- Subjects corporations, associations, and partnerships to liability.
- A claimant who prevails will be awarded actual damages and may recover additional exemplary damages.
- Any person found responsible for any amount is jointly liable with any other person found to be liable for the entire amount of damages.
- If a legal entity is found responsible for trafficking, a shareholder, partner, or member of that entity is jointly and severally liable if the shareholder, member, or partner was found to have personally benefited from the trafficking.
- There is no statute of limitations for a victim to bring forward a private action.
- Previously in Arizona, human and sex trafficking were only addressed in criminal statutes. Victims could not take civil action against their perpetrators in state court.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in the United States, both U.S. residents and foreign nationals are being bought and sold like modern-day slaves. The Bureau says traffickers use violence, manipulation, or false promises of well-paying jobs or romantic relationships to exploit victims. Victims are forced to work as prostitutes or to take jobs as migrant, domestic, restaurant, or factory workers with little or no pay.
“What we are seeing is that there is a ton of activity, there are a ton of people being bought and sold for sex in our community,” Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, Director of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research at Arizona State University, said last April, adding that the traffickers “are being more violent” and are “more likely to be carrying a weapon.”