ACLU-PA Position: Opposes
One of the stated aims of SB 44 is to ensure that child victims of trafficking have access to support services, and if the bill was limited to providing more services to minors, the ACLU-PA would not oppose it.
However, our primary concern is the dangerously wide net SB 44 (PN 1264) would cast by expanding the definition of trafficking in individuals under 18 § 3011 to include those who “patronize” a person that they know or recklessly disregards will be subject to sexual servitude. This offense is graded as a first-degree felony. Patronizing a victim of sexual servitude is already punishable as a third-degree felony under 18 § 3013, presumably because current law recognizes the crucial difference between someone who is engaged in the process or business of trafficking (i.e., someone who “recruits, entices, solicits, advertises, harbors, transports, provides, obtains or maintains an individual”) and someone who patronizes a person being trafficked.
By amending § 3011 to include “patronizes” as an element of the crime of trafficking in individuals, SB 44 would erase this distinction, thereby undermining the rationale for punishing actual traffickers more than patronizers and casting a broad and indiscriminate net over more and more people—people whose patronage is already severely punished.
Governor Shapiro signed SB 44 into law on December 14, 2023 as Act 39 of 2023.