The Daily Aztec
San Diego State's Independent Student Newspaper
Sterling Alvarado


October 29, 2012

Prop 35: Sex traffic law vaguely expands police power

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Written by: Heather Rushall
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Proposition 35, if passed, will create harsher punishments for those who participate in the sex trafficking industry. These punishments include prison sentences up to 15-years-to-life and fines up to $1.5 million. Those who are convicted would also be required to register as sex offenders, receive limitations to Internet access and would be supervised by law enforcement.

The new legislation would also require special training for police officers to assist in cracking down on prostitutes, pimps and other sex trafficking participants. Completion of the training would be required of all state and local peace officers no later than July 1, 2014, or within six months of being assigned to the field, and would be at least two hours long.

Currently the crackdown on sex trafficking is mainly overseen by the federal government, not by the state.

The numbers are not clear, but anticipated costs to state and local governments are, “not likely to exceed a few million dollars annually,” according to the official Voter Information Guide. That said, anticipated revenues from the new criminal fines would likely generate a “few million dollars annually.”

Currently, federal law defines sex trafficking as an act, “in which persons are recruited, transported or obtained for a commercial sex act that is induced by force or fraud or in which the victim performing the act is under age 18. An example of sex trafficking is forcing a person into prostitution.” Similarly, labor trafficking is all of the above, except no sex is involved. The example given is, “forcing a foreign national to work for free by threatening deportation.”

State law, however, defines sex trafficking as “violating the liberty of a person with the intent to either (1) commit certain felony crimes (such as prostitution) or (2) obtain forced labor or services.”

Proposition 35 expands these definitions on a state level to include the “distribution of obscene materials depicting minors as a form of human trafficking.” In this case, duplicating or selling materials depicting a minor is considered sex trafficking, even if the merchant had no contact with the minor.

Furthermore, prosecutors are not required to prove force or coercion.

Other changes in Proposition 35 would include special programs for trafficking victims, changes in court proceedings and expanded registration for sex offenders.


Proposition 35 initially seems like cut-and-dry legislation, but the potential harm to innocent sex workers and the fiscal impact could make this proposition a total failure.

Because the expanded definition of trafficking includes creation and distribution, the owners of sex shops could now be targeted. Campaigns against Proposition 35 also argue most sexual workers are doing their jobs consensually. Because the law doesn’t require prosecutors to prove the use of force or coercion, virtually anyone can be prosecuted.

“This short-sighted ballot measure relies on a broad definition of pimping. This includes: parents, children, roommates, domestic partners and landlords of prostitutes to be labeled as sex offenders,” Maxine Doogan and Manual Jimenez, President and chief financial officers of Erotic Service Providers Legal, respectively, said in the argument against Proposition 35.

Aside from loosely written definitions of who may be considered a sex offender and the new requirements for all of them to register as such, the fiscal impact of Proposition 35 is severely neglected in its official title and summary in the official Voter Information Guide.

Presenting a new state cost as “not likely to exceed a few million dollars annually” and not giving any idea where the money would come from, how it would be spent and whether or not there would be a cost cap if the proposition passes leaves a lot of questions unanswered. California is going broke and taking on a costly new jurisdiction previously enforced by the federal government is asking a lot from state taxpayers. There is no mention of block grants from the federal government or other funds set aside to cover the costs of enforcing this brand new set of laws.

There are very few heartless souls who are pro-sex trafficking and trust me, I am not one of them, but this proposition is poorly written and far too vague in its intentions. California voters are having their heartstrings fondled by the government and this proposition has the potential to wrongfully jail thousands of consensual sex workers, escorts, exotic dancers, pornography industry workers and sex shop owners. Vote no on Proposition 35 and demand it be rewritten to truly protect the sex trafficking victims who need it.

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About the Author

Heather Rushall


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  1. HFran

    Fueled by the Internet, human trafficking of children is flourishing in California because the profits are huge and the laws are weak, allowing traffickers to rake in big bucks while operating with near impunity. Gangs are now getting into trafficking because it is less risky and more profitable for them to sell children than to sell drugs. Prop 35 is endorsed by law enforcement organizations, prosecutors, elected officials, Democratic and Republican parties and child advocates throughout California. That is because it is a comprehensive law that provides the strong penalties, fines and prosecutorial tools required to put the traffickers away for a long time and take away their huge profits – things that the current law has failed to do. Many traffickers who should be in prison have walked because of the numerous loopholes in the current law. Prop 35 closes those loopholes. Fines that are collected from convicted traffickers will go to the many services victims need to recover from their trauma and get their lives on track. In addition to protecting victims by getting the traffickers in prison and off the streets, Prop 35 recognizes the children as the victims. It protects them in the courtroom where, under the current law, they are treated as criminals because their past behavior can be used against them when they testify against their abusers. Prop 35 provides trafficking victims the same level of protection rape victims have under the Rape Shield Law which prevents a victim’s sexual conduct from being admitted as evidence. Prop 35 also removes the requirement that the prosecution has to prove force, fraud or coercion in a child sex trafficking case. Prop 35 also requires convicted sex traffickers to register as sex offenders and to disclose their Internet accounts. We need to protect our children from traffickers who cruise Internet the same as traffickers who cruise the streets. Further, the costs will be negligible, especially when looked at long term. The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst Office has reported Prop 35 will have a “minor increase in state and local criminal justice costs from increased penalties” and there would be potential one-time local costs of up to a few million statewide for police training. On the other hand, Prop 35 will generate new funds through criminal fines to pay for victims’ services to help traumatized survivors recover and become vital members of our communities. Most trafficked children have no supportive home to go back to. The benefit of rescuing and healing these children far exceeds the very small expense associated with Prop 35. Moreover, helping survivors turn their lives around will pay dividends for generations. When exploited girls and boys are assisted, the law enforcement and criminal justice systems will see savings through vast reductions in future arrests and burdens on the courts.” For a good understanding of Prop 35, go to:

  2. S. Anderson

    RESCINDED endorsements #Prop35 from: Standing Against Global Exploitation (SAGE), Chab Dai, City of San Jose, via Lt. John Vanek

    Prop 35 aka CASE Act was vote DOWN 3x in CA legislature with a $250K price tag. NOW,the cost is a vague <$1M, w/no explanation as to the additional costs.

    Chris Kelly, put up $1.8M for this. But not to any NGO's that provide direct support to ANY victims, but to Daphne Phong's org Californians Against Slavery (founded in 2009-no 1099's on file.)Which does not provide direct services to victims & would not exist were it not for Chris Kelly's $$$.

    Will add a slew of minor convictions, that are NOT defined in the proposition, to the Sex Offender registry, including having to track internet identities.

    Has already been determined to be unconstitutional by the ACLU and the Human Rights Watch. If this passes, expect a lengthy court battle.

    Prop 35 has written in, "a process by which, the proposition can be edited/changed, via CA legislature". That on it's own, is enough reason to vote NO. Why bring forth a proposition that is not ready for public vote, that may need additional editing via CA legislature?

    NO, badly written & written for the sole purpose of gaining Chris Kelly desperately needed political clout, gaining more $$ for outdated law enforcement raid & rescue operations that cost more and arrest more innocent individuals.

    For what, an alleged 18 minor sex trafficking victims?

    When THIS is happening & isn't getting ANY media attention, because what…incest & familial abuse isn't as sexy?

    "In 2011, there were 461,567 reports (allegations) of child abuse and neglect in California. Of those cases, 84,756, or 18%, were substantiated (verified) by the state child welfare system."

    If I were a wannabe politician, I'd want to propose something progressive, smart & inexpensive to fix rampant and widespread problems. Not create a whole new wave of fear-mongering & hysteria over nothing. It would blow back on me, if it didn't pan out, wouldn't it?

  3. HM

    Regarding an “expanded definition of sex trafficking:”
    There are known and common signs of sex and labor trafficking. The suggestion that evidence of prostitution automatically proves trafficking does not take into account that prosecutors do need some kind of “burden of proof” to convict.

    Regarding the fiscal impact of Prop 35:
    By incarcerating KNOWN traffickers, we decrease the number of victims they would otherwise recruit. Rehabilitation of victims is extremely expensive (health care, housing, mental health services, education, job training, family problems….at least $60K a year for good care) as is the re-incarceration of sex-trafficking victims who have been arrested for prostitution. (I’ve worked with survivors of trafficking and gone to court cases with them as they attempt to get their records expunged…). For every victim a trafficker doesn’t get to, California saves a significant chunk of change.

    CHOOSE YES as your response to PROP 35.

    For your reading pleasure: an article from a long-time CA prosecutor

  4. YesEn35

    From the link written by the CA Prosecutor:

    Does Prop 35 broaden the definition of human trafficking?

    The only change that Prop 35 makes to the current definition of human trafficking is the expansion of the list of trafficking violations to include the production of child pornography. However, the distribution of child pornography would only be included if the distributor specifically caused the child to engage in the sexual act, such as if a trafficker is attempting to sell children online by making them appear in a pornographic video. There are laws on the books to fight the possession and distribution of child pornography, and Prop 35 will not augment them. Other than this specific change, Prop 35 does not change the categories of violations currently listed in state law. The measure clarifies the definition of coercion by mirroring the definition in the federal law.

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