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Senator Book, District 32 — Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 26, 2021

CONTACT: Claire VanSusteren, (352) 281-9056


Senator Lauren Book Files Bill to Help Increase Human Trafficking Convictions and Support Victims During Trial

Plantation, FL —

Senator Lauren Book (D-Plantation) today filed legislation containing measures aimed at increasing human trafficking convictions and supporting victims during trial. SB 812 would ban victim depositions during human trafficking trials unless specifically necessary to the defense, create a set of guidelines to ensure a speedy trial, create a “pro-prosecution” policy in cases where a victim is unwilling or unable to cooperate, and create a hearsay exception for trafficking victims.

“Florida is a hotbed for human trafficking, but despite being the third highest trafficking destination in the country - with half of all victims being children - our conviction rate for these crimes is woefully low,” says Senator Book, a member of the Florida Statewide Council on Human Trafficking. “To stop traffickers in their tracks, we must give prosecutors the tools they need to bring these predators to justice – and that’s exactly what this bill aims to do.”

Human trafficking is legally defined as "the act of compelling or coercing a person's labor, services, or commercial sex acts. The coercion can be subtle or overt, physical or psychological, but it must be used to coerce a victim into performing labor, services, or commercial sex acts." But meeting the necessary burden of proving coercion is often difficult because of traffickers’ mental hold over their victims. Most victims of trafficking are groomed with false promises of love, safety or opportunity by someone they come to know and trust.

 “Senator Book’s bill provides ways to support and protect victims of human trafficking throughout the litigation of the cases against the predators who have exploited them,” says Danielle Dudai, a former Assistant State Attorney who prosecuted human trafficking cases in Broward County. “Prosecutors should be able to shield the victims in their cases from unnecessary depositions to ensure the victims are not retraumatized and attacked prior to trial testimony.”

Book’s bill aims to help prosecutors overcome hurdles unique to human trafficking cases, including a measure to protect vulnerable victims by banning depositions during human trafficking trials unless proven specifically necessary to the defense. Under current law, the defense often uses a victim’s inability to recall specific details about their exploitation against them, painting the victim as an unreliable or dishonest witness during deposition.

Book’s bill also creates a set of guidelines to ensure a speedy trial and prevent unnecessary delays often brought forth by defense attorneys in an effort to deter victims seeking justice in lengthy court proceedings. In cases where trafficking victims are unwilling or unable to cooperate, Book’s bill creates a “pro-prosecution” policy allowing the State to assume the role of victim. Finally, Book’s bill would carve out a hearsay exception for victims of human trafficking.

Senator Lauren Book was a victim of childhood sexual abuse for six years at the hands of a trusted caretaker, and has successfully championed anti-trafficking legislation to help crack down on predators and provide resources to help survivors.