Bills crack down on profiting from child sex workers, luring students

7 March 2023

Lawmakers are considering a bill, AB157, that would impose harsher penalties for those living off the earnings of child sex workers than for those living off the earnings of adult sex workers. 

Under existing law, someone making a living off of any sex worker — minor or adult — could spend one to five years in a state prison if the sex worker is physically forced or threatened into prostitution, and one to four years if there was no threat imposed on the sex worker. 

Under the bill, if the sex worker is a child, a person living off those earnings could face one to 10 years in a state prison if there was no physical force or threat used on the child sex worker, and a minimum of three to 10 years if physical force is used. 

“As a former member of the Washoe County School District Board of Trustees, I have been made aware recently, before I left the board, that there is sex trafficking actually happening within our own school district, and not just ours,” Assemblywoman Angie Taylor (D-Reno), the sponsor of AB157, said during a hearing in the Assembly Judiciary Committee on March 3. “It’s going on across the state.”

Supporters included law enforcement agencies and nonprofits.

“Simply put, we support any measure to hold perpetrators of trafficking minors accountable,” said Serena Evans, the policy director of the Nevada Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence.

Public defenders from both Clark County and Washoe County testified in opposition, calling for a more nuanced conversation on how the bill would affect victims.

“It is a category A felony to traffic a child, that conduct is covered, right? We can’t make that penalty any higher,” said Erica Roth with the Washoe County Public Defender’s Office. “What we can do is risk bringing more people into the system to be continued to be victimized once by their pimp, and then again by an unjust system. It’s really important to understand how these charges affect victims, because they do.”

A representative from Nevada Attorneys for Criminal Justice also testified in opposition, saying it might unintentionally affect youth who were kicked out of their homes because they are gay or transgender and have turned to survival sex work, but are not necessarily being trafficked. 

“If these kids live together, they support each other economically. That could technically get them prosecuted for living off the earnings of a prostitute,” said Jim Hoffman with the Nevada Attorneys for Criminal Justice. “We don’t want this to be misinterpreted as something that could be used to go after victims of sex trafficking.”

Bills address child prostitution, school staff luring children

People who solicit a child for prostitution could soon be required to have a psychosexual evaluation, be declared a ‘moderate to low risk to re-offend’ in order to receive probation, and register as a sex offender. 

The change could come if lawmakers pass SB36, a bill presented by the attorney general’s office.

The psychosexual evaluation includes tests, such as the Sexual Violence Risk 20, a 20-item checklist that determines if someone is at low, moderate or high risk of perpetrating sexual violence, and the Static 2002-R, which predicts the likelihood of sexual violence recidivism based on an estimate of “a number of factors present in any one individual.”

Alissa Engler, chief of prosecutions at the attorney general’s office, said both evaluations can be used before a conviction to help create plea agreements, or after a plea is made to determine a sentence. 

But public defenders from Washoe and Clark County and the Nevada District Attorneys Association opposed the bill unless amendments reflect that psychosexual evaluations are only presented in cases when the underlying crime is a sexual offense.

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“Sexting” between a school employee or volunteer, and a student 18 or younger, could soon be a felony. 

SB38 creates a new crime called “luring a pupil.” It’s backed by the attorney general’s office, the Nevada District Attorneys Association and the Clark County School District Police Department. 

Perpetrators would be subject to lifetime supervision, and a judge can prohibit the person from possessing electronic communication devices as a condition of probation. 

Under the bill, a person is guilty of a Category C felony if they knowingly contact or attempt to contact or communicate with a student with the intent to cause or encourage the pupil to engage in sexual conduct, either in person or through electronic means. They would also be guilty of the felony if they use an electronic communication device to transmit a sexual image of themselves to the student or pupil. If conversations encourage a student to commit a crime, that would also be a Category C felony in accordance with the new policy.

Under the bill, all school employees or volunteers who knowingly contact a pupil who is 16 years old or younger to encourage delinquent behavior, such as missing class to hang out or go places without their parents’ awareness, is guilty of a gross misdemeanor.

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Under AB183, kids who are at least 10 years old and committed to county and state facilities for delinquency must be screened for commercial sexual exploitation of a child, although the screening could be used for a child of any age who appears at risk once tools are available. 

The test is in addition to drug, alcohol and mental health screenings for children brought into the juvenile justice system. Clark and Washoe County child welfare agencies have already begun using this method, but the new law would mandate this process statewide and require a report if a child is at risk of sexual exploitation.

Editor’s Note: This story appears in Behind the Bar, The Nevada Independent’s newsletter dedicated to comprehensive coverage of the 2023 legislative session. Sign up for the newsletter here.

This story was updated at 11:40 a.m. on 3/7/23 to add details about sex offender registration in SB36.

The post Bills crack down on profiting from child sex workers, luring students appeared first on The Nevada Independent.

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