The Assembly has unanimously approved an East Bay lawmaker's bill that would make it easier for police and prosecutors to nail those involved in the human trafficking of minors.

Assembly Bill 90 by Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, makes clear that where a trafficking victim is 18 years of age or younger, a showing of force, fraud, or coercion is not required in proving the elements of the crime. Instead, the standard of proof would be changed to a showing that the defendant caused, induced, encouraged, or persuaded the victim. This is consistent with federal law and the fact that minors can't legally consent to sexual acts.

"Many of these girls suffer from trauma bonding, post-traumatic stress disorder, mental manipulation, and severe depression," Swanson said. "It is shameful and irresponsible that our state relieves a criminal of punishment simply because he used mental force rather than physical force in capturing a child."

Alameda County Assistant District Attorney Sharmin Bock worked with Swanson's office to craft the bill.

"Drug traffickers are migrating to pimping because they've realized that exploiting children is more profitable and less risky than selling drugs," said Bock, who also is a candidate for San Francisco District Attorney. "You've got to buy the dope, cut the dope, package the dope, and find people to help you sell it. In contrast, pimps get the girls for free, fly under the radar of law enforcement, and they can sell their 'product' over and over. Sadly, there is no better investment for your money than selling a child for sex. AB 90 allows prosecutors throughout the state the chance to prosecute these predators under the appropriate crime."

The Assembly voted 79-0 Tuesday to pass the bill; it now goes to the state Senate.

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