House and Senate leaders held a press conference Wednesday to highlight legislation to combat human trafficking in Virginia. House Bill 1964 (Hugo) and Senate Bill 1188 (Obenshain) would for the first time in Virginia create a standalone statute for sex trafficking. Delegates Rob Bell (R-Albemarle), Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) and David Yancey (R-Newport News) also attended the press conference. HB1964, introduced by Delegate Hugo, will define and establish the offense of sex trafficking as a class 2 felony, which includes sex trafficking of a minor. It establishes mandatory minimum sentencing for a perpetrator when a minor becomes the victim of sex trafficking, and would criminalize the recruitment of minors and adults for commercial sex.
Commenting on the legislation, Delegate Hugo said, “We must continue to send traffickers, buyers, and facilitators the message that they are not welcome in our state. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the General Assembly, the Courts of Justice Committees, and Delegates Rob Bell and Todd Gilbert, who have been leaders on this issue, to continue the fight against this abhorrent crime. Those who would seek to harm our children will know that our kids are not for sale in Virginia. Not now, and not ever.”
This will be the fourth piece of legislation in four years introduced by Delegate Hugo aimed at human trafficking. HB1898, introduced by Delegate Hugo in 2011, passed into law, making abduction for the purposes of child prostitution a felony. HB1606, which became law in 2013, increased the punishment for those soliciting minors for prostitution. Most recently in 2014, he passed HB485, which empowers law enforcement to better track down and arrest suspected traffickers.