Delaware Acts to Fight Human Trafficking

Dover – Legislation championed by Attorney General Biden, national authorities on the law, and state legislative leaders which strengthens the fight against human trafficking was enacted in a signing ceremony this afternoon in Legislative Hall. 

Senate Bill 197, crafted by Senate President Pro Tempore Patricia M. Blevins, D-Elsmere, and Rep. Helene Keeley, D-Wilmington South, in cooperation with Attorney General Beau Biden’s office and the Uniform Law Commission (ULC), increases criminal penalties for those that engage in human trafficking and provide greater protections for its victims.  The bill passed the State House and Senate unanimously earlier this spring.

“We’ve taken an important step to better protect the vulnerable and voiceless victims of human trafficking,” Attorney General Biden said.  “It ensures that resources are made available to victims of this unconscionable crime to help them heal and move forward with their lives, and it expands penalties to punish the perpetrators and those who benefit from trafficking.  I want to specially recognize Senator Blevins and Representative Keeley for their leadership in crafting and passing this legislation.”

Human trafficking is now the second fastest growing crime in the United States, and the Delaware legislation provides a comprehensive approach in the fight against human trafficking. The bill:

  • Sharpens the state’s provisions that penalize the criminal conduct at the core of human trafficking and punishes those who knowingly benefit by using human-trafficking victims.
  • Empowers Courts to order that traffickers forfeit property used in or gained by trafficking.
  • Provides the protections and remedies that victims need to recover and rebuild their lives.
  • Creates a Human Trafficking Coordinating Council to develop a comprehensive anti-human-trafficking plan, evaluate data, effectuate interagency cooperation, and other important tasks.

“With Gov. Markell signing this Uniform Act into law, Delaware leads the nation in the fight against modern slavery,” said Delaware Uniform Law Commissioner and ULC Immediate Past-President Michael Houghton.  “Attorney General Biden, Sen. Blevins and Rep. Keeley have been exceptional partners in the fight to punish traffickers and provide resources and dignity to the survivors of trafficking--there is much left to do, but Delaware is leading the way.”

“Many of us don’t realize how frequently people of all ages fall victim to human trafficking right here in the United States, including Delaware, or understand the lasting and damaging impact that it has on individuals and their families,” Sen. Blevins said. “Not only does this bill strengthen our ability to penalize those who carry out these crimes, but it provides protections for victims, so that they are not criminalized for acts which they were forced to commit. Also, through the Council established under this bill, Delaware will continue to coordinate and develop rehabilitative services to help victims cope mentally and physically after their abuse, and get them back on their feet.”

"It is unthinkable that in 2014 we are talking about 2 million people annually being bought and sold around the world. While that number is much smaller in the United States, we must do everything in our power to put an end to this inhuman practice,” said Rep. Keeley, D-Wilmington South, the bill’s chief House sponsor. “In Delaware, vulnerable boys, girls and women are being coerced into prostitution and are victimized and abused. No person should be treated like this and we as a society can’t tolerate it. This is a comprehensive approach, toughening penalties on those who commit and profit from the crime while protecting the victims whose lives are shattered by this act. 

Delaware’s Human Trafficking legislation is based in part on the Uniform Act on the Prevention of and Remedies for Human Trafficking.  The Uniform Act was drafted and approved by the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) in 2013 and endorsed by the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates in August 2013.  The Uniform Act has been the basis for anti-human trafficking legislation in numerous states this year, including Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Virginia.  More information on this nation-wide effort can be found at www.letsendhumantrafficking.org.

A broad coalition of organizations joined the ULC in creating the Uniform Act, including the ABA, the ABA Center for Human Rights, the National Association of Attorneys General, the Polaris Project, LexisNexis, the U.S. State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, and other organizations committed to eradicating human trafficking.

The Uniform Law Commission is comprised of more than 350 practicing lawyers, government lawyers, judges, law professors, and lawyer-legislators who are appointed by each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to research, draft, and promote enactment of uniform state laws in areas of law where uniformity is desirable and practical.  Since 1892, the ULC has served the states and their citizens by creating uniform state laws that help families, businesses, property owners, service members, and many more.

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