Scranton, Pa

HB 2170 Strengthens Trafficking Law, Helps the Commercially Sexually Exploited

Posted: March 30, 2020

Pennsylvania House Bill 2170 (2020) “HB 2170” seeks to provide greater protections to those who are commercially sexually exploited by adjusting the Commonwealth’s existing trafficking and prostitution laws. HB 2170 was introduced by Representative Joanna McClinton on January 10, 2020.

HB 2170 seeks to amend Pennsylvania’s comprehensive human trafficking statute, known to advocates as “Act 105” or “Chapter 30”, to clarify definitions and add additional acts to the crime of trafficking in individuals. The legislation defines “house of prostitution” to include any place where prostitution of promotion of prostitution is regularly carried out by one or more. 18 Pa.C.S. § 3001. It also defines “inmate” to be a person who engages in prostitution in or through the agency of a house of prostitution and defines “public place” as any place to which the public or any group may have access. 18 Pa.C.S. § 3001. Additionally, HB 2170 adds “patronizes” to the list of acts that constitute sex trafficking, finally bringing Pennsylvania’s law in line with its federal counterpart. 18 Pa.C.S. § 3011(a). Pennsylvania’s law has lagged behind the federal law since 2015, thereby hampering the Commonwealth’s District Attorney’s ability to full combat sex trafficking.

This legislation also seeks to put the needs of those who are sexually exploited first, by eliminating draconian recidivist penalties for those found guilty of selling sex. HB 2170 will do so by keeping “prostitution” (18 Pa. C.S. § 5902(a)) as a misdemeanor of the third-degree, regardless of the number of times a person has been charged with the offense.

Further, HB 2170 proposes to disaggregate the crimes of prostitution and related offenses and increase the penalties for habitual exploiters (currently 18 Pa. C.S. § 5902). If passed, this legislation would move “promoting prostitution” (18 Pa.C.S. § 5902(b)) to Chapter 30 – Human Trafficking and increases the grading to a felony of the third degree. 18 Pa.C.S. § 3027. The legislation proposes to amend “living off prostitutes” (18 Pa.C.S. § 5902(d)) to “living off sexually exploited persons” and moves it to it to Chapter 30, keeping the grade a felony of the third degree. 18 Pa.C.S. § 3028. HB 2170 also amends “patronizing prostitutes” (18 Pa.C.S. § 5902(e)) to “commercial sexual exploitation,” and moves it to Chapter 30. 18 Pa.C.S. § 3029.  By disaggregating this section of the law and moving certain sections over to the human trafficking chapter of Pennsylvania’s crimes code, it more accurately reflects that human trafficking is a criminal enterprise driven by the demand for commercial sex.

Additionally, HB 2170 increases funding for juvenile victims by assigning all § 3011 offenses a fine of $5,000 to be paid to the Sexually Exploited Children Fund. 18 Pa.C.S. § 3064.

Finally, this legislation expands prohibited expungement of a defendant’s arrest record for charges of “promoting prostitution” or “commercial sexual exploitation” if the victim was under 18. HB 2170 also increases access to information on defendants charged with violating PA’s human trafficking statute. 18 Pa.C.S. § 9122.

HB 2170 was referred to committee judiciary on January 10, 2020. We have created a printable resource about this important piece of legislation to share with advocates. 


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