Sex trafficking penalties increased

Senators passed a bill June 5 that enhances penalties for pandering, soliciting and harboring people for prostitution.

LB255, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Amanda McGill, makes a person under 18 years old immune from charges of prostitution. A law enforcement officer who takes a person under 18 years of age into custody is required to report an allegation of prostitution immediately to the state Department of Health and Human Services, which will commence an investigation within 24 hours under the Child Protection Act. A person under the age of 16 who is involved in prostitution will be placed in the juvenile court’s jurisdiction.

The bill also increases the penalty for soliciting a minor for prostitution, currently a Class I misdemeanor carrying a maximum one year in jail and $1,000 fine, to a Class IV felony, which carries a maximum five years in jail and a $10,000 fine. Keeping a place of prostitution, currently a Class I misdemeanor, would be a Class IV felony when those kept as prostitutes are under the age of 18. In cases involving a trafficking victim between the ages of 15 and 18 years old, the offender will be guilty of a Class III felony.

Finally, LB255 requires a trafficking task force formed last year to use information and research that is available from the Innocence Lost National Initiative to recommend a model of rehabilitative services for victims of human trafficking.

The bill passed on a 47-0 vote.

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