COLUMBUS – Legislation that will close a loophole allowing human trafficking offenders to avoid criminal punishment has been signed into law recently after passing unanimously through both chambers of the Ohio General Assembly.

House Bill 427, sponsored by State Representative Susan Manchester, R-Waynesfield, will enable prosecutors to pursue legal action against offenders who use drugs and addiction to compel victims of human trafficking into prostitution or trafficking. The bill will expand the definition of ‘compelled’ to include the use or manipulation of controlled substances or addiction to controlled substances when charging human trafficking offenders with ‘trafficking in persons’ or ‘compelling prostitution.’

“When human traffickers use drugs to compel their victims, we need to make sure we are empowering those in the fight against human trafficking by giving them the tools they need to hold criminals accountable,” Manchester said.

Current law defines ‘compel’ as the use of fear, force, duress, intimidation or fraud.

Drugs and addiction are commonly used according to recent studies that suggest as high as 84% of victims reported substance abuse during their victimization. Even though traffickers frequently use substances to lure and control their victims they do not currently meet the criteria for compel.

“These changes will give prosecutors across the state the charge that will meet the crimes that are occurring right now during human trafficking victim’s captivity,” Manchester added.

Across the globe, there are more than 40 million victims of human trafficking, with hundreds of thousands in the United States. Ohio ranked sixth highest in the crimes of human trafficking and prostitution, due in part to the states geographic location, and calls received by the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

State Rep. Andrea White, R-Kettering, is a joint sponsor of House Bill 427.