State senate considers human trafficking legal changes

By: Brendan Losinski | Metro | Published November 13, 2023

Photo provided by the State of Michigan


LANSING — The Michigan Senate is considering three measures that supporters say would facilitate prosecutions of human traffickers and better protect their victims throughout the legal process.

On Nov. 9, the Michigan legislature advanced three legislative priorities from Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and the Department which would reform the state’s human trafficking, hate crimes and uniform securities statutes.

Known as Senate Bills 515, 516, and 517, they were sponsored by Senators Rosemary Bayer, Sue Shink and Stephanie Chang, and were supported by the Michigan Human Trafficking Commission, which is housed within the Michigan Department of Attorney General.

The bills include reforms that will protect human trafficking victims and provide them with rights in court that are similar to those currently provided under law to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.

“From Western Upper Peninsula to Southeastern Michigan, no region is immune to this crime,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a press release. “Traffickers use control and submission to exploit their victims, subjecting them to sexual, physical and emotional abuse. These reforms will provide Michigan law enforcement officers and prosecutors with additional tools to help prosecute those who engage in this heinous, criminal behavior.”

This legislation will add to the hearsay exception and allow for such statements to come in if they were made not only by a victim of domestic violence, but also a victim of human trafficking, expand the reach of the statute that allows for admission of other prior similar acts to include admission of other acts of commercial sexual activity, prostitution, and human trafficking, instead of only in domestic violence or sexual assault cases and help protect victims of these crimes by making it more difficult for their abusers and traffickers to escape punishment by allowing a jury to consider such individuals true nature and scheme and plan regarding these types of crimes.

The measures also allow for the compelling of a witnesses’ testimony but would prohibit the use of that testimony to be used against the witness and ensure that minor participants and victims of human trafficking don’t fail to cooperate just because they may implicate themselves in some other type of crime, or even in a crime under this chapter.

The Department of Attorney General testified in support of these bills before the Senate Civil Rights, Judiciary and Public Safety Committee.