New Mexico lawmakers on Wednesday, Jan. 30, moved legislation forward that changes the way people who are under 18 are treated when they’re accused of prostitution. Instead of being arrested and subject to criminal punishment, they could be given treatment and services.
Legislators and advocates testified in Santa Fe that young people can’t really consent to sexual activity, and so shouldn’t be punished as juvenile delinquents for prostitution. House Bill 56 would make it so that young folks are considered human trafficking victims under the law.
April Land from the University of New Mexico Law School spoke to state representatives. "Passing what is called a Safe Harbor Law makes it such that the police cannot arrest children who are sexually exploited for being sexually exploited," she said.
The law would also allow a police officer to take a suspected child trafficking victim into protective custody without a court order. The Children Youth and Families Department would then refer the young person to services, regardless of whether they return to their family or enter foster care.
The House Judiciary Committee passed the bill without opposition.