- Gov. Ron DeSantis signed three bills into law to strengthen anti-human trafficking regulations in the state.
- The bills introduce provisions such as increased penalties for traffickers and regulations for safe houses and lodging establishments.
- The legislation establishes a civil cause of action for victims seeking damages from adult entertainment establishments employing trafficking victims, mandates specialized training for law enforcement, and creates a Statewide Data Repository for trafficking data collection.
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a trio of bills into law on Tuesday that bolster anti-human trafficking regulations in Florida, increasing penalties for traffickers found complicit in the illegal transportation of individuals and establishing new guidelines for centers of care.
Senate Bill 7064 introduces provisions to combat human trafficking, including the introduction of a civil cause of action for victims seeking damages and costs from adult entertainment establishments knowingly employing trafficking victims. The legislation enhances penalties for solicitation or enticement of prostitution, requiring offenders to participate in educational programs highlighting the connection between commercial sex demand and human trafficking.
The bill further mandates specialized training for law enforcement officers in identifying and investigating human trafficking, while also establishing a Statewide Data Repository to facilitate the collection of anonymous trafficking data for prosecution and victim assistance.
“This is going to serve as a deterrent for some of those people knowing they can now be held liable in a more direct way financially,” said DeSantis. “This is something that is important to recognize when talking about human trafficking. Sometimes people get forced into this and it’s hard to get out.”
Per DeSantis, there was a 50 percent increase in the rate of human trafficking nationwide last year, with most victims being women and children. He additionally stated that 72 percent of registered trafficking victims were illegal migrants.
The governor also signed Senate Bill 1690, which hampers the prevalence of human trafficking in safe houses — residential establishments that provide housing and care for adult survivors of trafficking — and lodging establishments like hotels or inns. Under the legislation, safe houses must meet specific requirements, including sheltering victims, offering services, and providing training programs, while also requiring hotels to follow current human trafficking awareness laws.
The bill also allows the state to impose heightened administrative fines of $2,000 per day against a public lodging establishment that is not in compliance with the statute.
The measure received wide bipartisan support across both chambers during the recent legislative session, passing both the House and Senate in unanimous decisions. State leaders such as Attorney General Ashley Moody and Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book took on the bill as legislative priorities.
“I am proud of our bipartisan work to combat the horrific realities of human trafficking, a crime which takes place hidden in plain sight in every single community across the state,” said Book on Tuesday. “We have now closed loopholes in Florida law that have allowed hotels, motels, and other lodging establishments to avoid paying fines for noncompliance with signage and training requirements designed to help combat this horrific crime.”
DeSantis signed a third bill, House Bill 1465, which adds human trafficking to the list of offenses that make a person eligible for minimum mandatory terms of imprisonment for possessing or discharging a firearm while committing such an offense.
“If you violently force victims into trafficking in this state, you are going to pay a very, very stiff penalty,” remarked DeSantis.
Florida, a prominent transportation hub and popular tourist state, has become a focal point for human trafficking in America. Between 2014 and 2019, the Florida Department of Children and Families recorded 1,771 reports of human trafficking, while the National Human Trafficking Hotline received 767 calls and identified 1,771 potential victims in Florida in 2019 alone. The state serves as both a destination and source for trafficking, with sex trafficking and labor exploitation being prevalent
According to data provided in a House analysis of SB 7064, the Florida Alliance to End Human Trafficking reports that Florida is the third largest center for human trafficking cases in the United States. The average minor is only 12 to 14 years old when first trafficked for commercial sex purposes, though some trafficking victims have been as young as 9 years old.