New law expands human trafficking charge

A new law sponsored by Dayton-area lawmakers will make it easier to convict someone of human trafficking by closing what she described as a loophole in Ohio law.

House Bill 427 expands the legal definition of compulsion to include using drugs to control someone. Previously compulsion only covered “fear, force, duress, intimidation or fraud,” according to a legislative news release.

State Reps. Andrea White, R-Kettering, and Susan Manchester, R-Waynesfield, introduced the bill in September. It passed the House in February and the Senate on May 25, unanimously approved by both chambers. Gov. Mike DeWine signed it into law Tuesday.

Now luring someone with drugs, forcing them to use drugs, or manipulating them through addiction, can be used in charges of human trafficking or compelling prostitution.

“The crimes of human trafficking and prostitution are rampant in Ohio, with substance use and addiction frequently being used as weapons to prey on vulnerable victims,” White said in the announcement. “One study suggests as high as 84% of sex trafficking survivors reported substance abuse during their victimization.”

Speaking to a Senate committee in March, White said traffickers know police are less likely to believe someone has been trafficked if the victim is under the influence of drugs.

The change in the law could affect hundreds of people in Ohio each year, she said.

Ohio generates the sixth-most calls of any state to the national human trafficking hotline, according to White.

Anyone who has been a target of human trafficking, or who knows someone who may be a victim, can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888 or by text at 233733.

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