By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
November 26, 2012
RALEIGH — Come Saturday, children in the Tar Heel State should be safer from human trafficking as the sale of a minor becomes a felony offense, thanks to legislation passed in July, supported and promoted by the Christian Action League.
Senate Bill 910, sponsored by Sen. Bob Atwater (D-Chatham), makes selling, surrendering or purchasing a minor a felony offense. Prior to the bill, the offense was on par with driving while license revoked — not much of a deterrent to would-be traffickers. But as of Dec. 1, the crime will be a Class F felony punishable by a prison term of 10 months to three years and a minimum fine of $5,000 for a first offense and $10,000 for a subsequent offense. The law also provides that the victim in the case would be ruled an abused juvenile and placed in the custody of the Department of Social Services. Those convicted could be required to register as sex offenders, depending on the court’s findings in the case.
“This common-sense change in the law was one of two very important steps forward in terms of battling human trafficking in North Carolina last year,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “The CAL worked closely with victims services organizations and lawmakers to help gain its passage and to help highlight the need for more action on this front.”
In addition, lawmakers approved the creation of a 12-member commission to research how human trafficking takes place in North Carolina — which is ranked eighth in the nation for this crime — and to determine what can be done to intervene. Lobbyist Sarah Bowman took the lead on this issue for the CAL and continues to offer workshops for church and community groups who want to know more about human trafficking and how they can help.
Another law supported by the Christian Action League that takes effect Saturday is one involving the expanding use of continuous alcohol monitoring devices.
Debated thoroughly during the spring of 2011, House Bill 494 finally passed in July 2012 giving judges more leeway in how they can use the waterproof and tamper resistant CAM anklets to help keep track of defendants’ alcohol use. After Saturday, they can be ordered as a condition of pretrial release or as part of probation. They can also be used on parents seeking custody or visitation with children if a judge has cause to believe that alcohol abuse is present.
The CAM devices are already in use in North Carolina as a part of DWI sentencing laws, but they have been limited to 60-day stints. This law extends the period of use and the circumstances for which CAM can be ordered.
“We’re glad to see use of this technology expanded because it will help protect the public from drunken drivers and also may help some defendants who are struggling to escape alcohol’s grip to break free from their addiction,” said Dr. Creech.