Human Trafficking in California: Proposition 35

A bad memory from the distant past

In modern America, human trafficking sounds like a bad memory from the distant past. But this form of slavery not only continues, but is being recognized as a global problem. Indeed, National Geographic declared that, "There are more slaves today than were seized from Africa in four centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade." State legislatures, including California and Michigan, are actively addressing the crime with renewed efforts. Though California ballot propositions can be highly contentious affairs, an anti-human trafficking ballot captured the support of a large majority of the state's citizens.

When voters passed Proposition 35 in November of 2012, California Attorney General Kamala Harris and other law enforcement officials vowed to crack down on human trafficking -- both sex trafficking and forced labor -- which they said has become the world's fastest growing criminal enterprise.

Proposition 35, which increases prison sentences and fines for human traffickers, was passed by California voters by a very wide margin. Known as the Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act, the measure was also drafted to prevent re-victimization, prohibiting evidence of commercial sex acts by those who were trafficked from being used against the victims in court.

Proponents drafted the proposition to make sex trafficking of a minor with force or fraud punishable with up to a life term in prison. They wanted to increase the fine for the offense to as much as $1.5 million from a maximum of $100,000, and to expand the definition of human trafficking to include creation and distribution of child pornography.

Prosecution under Proposition 35

Just what effects the new law will have may be proven by a current case that is being prosecuted under Proposition 35. The case is that of Chuncey Tarae Garcia, 33, a convicted cocaine dealer accused of raping a 14-year-old Arizona girl and luring her into prostitution. This trial will be Orange County's first test of the 2012 law that increases the punishment for human trafficking.

Garcia faces 28 years to life in prison if convicted on felony counts of human trafficking of a minor, pimping a minor and forcible rape. These charges include enhancements that stem from the girl's age and Garcia's prior convictions on drug charges.

The final outcome in cases such as Garcia's will determine just how effective a law Proposition 35 proves to be.

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