CASE Act Puts Sex-Trafficking Measure Before California Voters

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The California Democratic Party has endorsed Proposition 35, also known as the CASE Act, which significantly enhances the penalties associated with the crime of human trafficking, Southern California Public Radio reports.

What does Prop 35 say?

As outlined by the California Attorney General's office, Proposition 35 will be known as the "Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act" (CASE Act). It institutes state prison terms between five and 12 years, as well as fines up to $500,000, for anyone who "deprives or violates the personal liberty of another with the intent to obtain forced labor or services." Violation of already existing laws -- in addition to a conviction on human trafficking -- increases the state prison term to perhaps 20 years. A life sentence is possible if "the offense involves force, fear, fraud, deceit, coercion, violence, duress, menace or threat of unlawful injury to the victim or to another person." Criminal defense counsel can no longer claim initial consent of the human trafficking victim -- or lack of knowledge about a minor's age -- at trial. Anyone convicted under the law proposed by Prop 35 must register in California as a sex offender.

Will the CASE Act find favor with the voters?

Capitol Weekly notes that local polling shows clear support of 49 percent of likely voters, while 19 percent will probably support the measure. Another 20 percent are not yet convinced that they will vote for Proposition 35, but they may vote in favor of it come November. "These poll results show that even on a crowded ballot, Proposition 35 stands alone as a clear choice for voters and our state," the funder of California Against Slavery told the publication.

Is it not the job of the California legislature to pass laws on human trafficking?

Assembly member Tim Donnelly (R-Twin Peaks) introduced AB 996 in 2011. It proposed similar tightening of human trafficking laws under already existing sex offender laws. Around the Capitol highlights the bill's failure in committee with four lawmakers voting against the measure in May 2011. The dissenters were Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles), Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) and Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles). Voting for the law were Curt Hagman (R-Chino Hills) and Steve Knight (R-Palmdale). "Due to the current political climate, bills with enhanced prison penalties will not pass the legislature," the Vote Yes on 35 campaign notes.

Is there opposition to the CASE Act?

There is no official opposition to Prop 35. Even so, the L.A. Weekly calls it "a needless but popular proposal," in part because there are already federal as well as state laws dealing with the crimes of pandering, sex trafficking and pimping. The Legislative Counsel for the State of California shows that the California Public Defenders Association officially opposed Donnelly's bill, citing opposition by the California Sex Offender Management Board. This entity suggested that adding a new group of offenders who must register as sex offenders "would, in redirecting scarce resources, be detrimental to public safety."

Sylvia Cochran is a Los Angeles area resident with a firm finger on the pulse of California politics. Talk radio junkie, community volunteer and politically independent, she scrutinizes the good and the bad from both sides of the political aisle.

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