Assemblyman Troy Singleton will introduce a new legislative package on Thursday to enhance New Jersey's human trafficking laws by cracking down on enablers and partnering with the trucking industry to report signs of trafficking.
"These bills are modeled after similar laws in Pennsylvania and Ohio that are proving effective because they employ common sense approaches to the problem," said Singleton (D-Burlington). "The first bill targets enablers by cracking down on those who turn a blind eye to this horrific industry because they stand to profit. The other bill will enlist the help of those who are often frontline witnesses to human trafficking, whether they realize it or not."
The first bill is similar to a Pennsylvania law permitting lawsuits against hotel and motel owners where illegal human trafficking activities take place. Under current New Jersey law, a person injured as a result of human trafficking can sue the person who actually commits the act, as well as anyone else who is actively conspiring, or "acting in concert," with that actor.
The Pennsylvania law is more expansive in that it permits lawsuits against any party that "profits from or maintains the victim in any sex trade act," such as a conspiring party, or a party that is aware of the act while having no connection to the person committing it, and does nothing while financially benefiting from it.
Along these lines, Singleton's bill would allow for civil actions against individuals or entities who knowingly profit from the commission of human trafficking offenses, or maintain the victims of such offenses, even though they are not "acting in concert" with the offender and thus not involved in any agreed-upon conspiracy with the offender. The bill would expand the statute providing for human trafficking civil actions beyond its current scope, which only addresses suits against individuals who commit the human trafficking offense and any conspiring parties who are "acting in concert" with that person.
"Essentially this bill will hold parties accountable by subjecting them to a civil suit if they are aware of human trafficking and turn a blind eye while allowing these offenses to continue and possibly receiving a financial benefit," added Singleton.
The second bill is similar to an Ohio law requiring commercial truck drivers to be trained in how to spot telltale signs of sex trafficking and how to report it. Singleton's bill achieves the same goal as Ohio's law, which is to train truck drivers on handling and responding to human trafficking.
"This practice is gaining steam, with a number of other states considering similar options, because it makes sense to target trafficking where it occurs - at rest stops, at motels - places where victims would be transported or housed. I'm eager for us to get this law on the books because I think truckers can and will be a great ally in this fight," added Singleton.
Specifically, the bill would require applicants for a commercial driver's license to complete a one-time training course on the handling and response procedures of suspected human trafficking activities, which would be developed by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission in consultation with the Commission on Human Trafficking. Alternatively, the MVC, in consultation with the commission, could approve a substantially similar one-time training course provided by a recognized statewide nonprofit human trafficking association with demonstrated experience in providing course offerings.
The training course would be reviewed at least every two years and modified by the chief administrator, in consultation with the commission and the approved nonprofit course provider, if any, from time to time as need may require. This bill would take effect 60 days after enactment.
Singleton intends to introduce both bills when the Assembly is in session on Thursday.