“The Buyer Beware Act” or “Act 1 (2020)” was recently signed into law by Governor Wolf. Act 1 (2020) aims to shift the focus of state law from punishing the victims of sex trafficking to punishing those who traffic individuals and those who buy sex from them. This new law seeks to accomplish this goal by amending certain sections Pennsylvania’s existing human trafficking and related statutes.
Act 1 (2020) elevates sex trafficking offenses to felonies of the first-degree for traffickers and third-party facilitators, alike. Pa C.S. § 3011. For those who traffic minors, the maximum possible penalty increases the potential maximum sentence of up to 50 years in prison if the offense is part of course of conduct. Pa C.S. § 3011. For those who traffic adults, the maximum penalty has increased to up to 20 years in prison and/or a $25,000 fine. Pa C.S. § 3011. Additionally, Act 1 (2020) has added “advertises” to list of acts that constitute trafficking, putting Pennsylvania’s trafficking law closer in line to its Federal predecessor. Pa C.S. § 3011.
Changes have also come in the form of increased penalties against those who purchase sex from a victim of human trafficking. The offense of Patronizing a victim of sexual servitude is now a first-degree felony if the sex buyer knew the individual is a victim of human trafficking. 18 Pa. C.S. § 3013. The offense has also been expanded to criminalize those who purchase sex in reckless disregard as to whether the individual is a victim of human trafficking as a third-degree felony, and a first-degree felony for any subsequent offense. 18 Pa. C.S. § 3013.
The Buyer Beware Act has also updated 18 Pa. C.S. § 5982 to change the definition of a “child” from anyone under 16 years of age to anyone under 18 years of age.
The changes have also resulted in additional fines against those who purchase sex from a victim of human trafficking. The fines have increased to $1,000 for a first offense, $25,000 for a second offense, $50,000 for a third or subsequent offense, and $50,000 for those who purchase sex from a minor victim. 18 Pa. C.S. § 3013. Importantly, funds leveraged from convictions under this section will go toward reimbursing law enforcement agencies involved in human trafficking investigations. 18 Pa. C.S. § 3021. Of those remaining funds, 30% will go toward prosecuting human trafficking cases, and 70% will fund victim services and grants that address human trafficking and aid survivors. 18 Pa. C.S. § 3013.
These changes go into effect on April 6, 2020. We have also created a printable resource detailing The Buyer Beware Act.