On September 1, 2021, a new law will go into effect in the state of Texas that is the first of its kind: House Bill 1540.
This new law makes it a felony to purchase sex in the state. In the past, it wasn’t technically illegal to buy sex in Texas. Now, if you do, you can be charged with a felony that can lead to you serving time in prison.
This law will also expand felony human trafficking to include actions that are related to extracting victims from residential facilities or shelters. This has been a big issue surrounding the illegal human trafficking trade that occurs in Texas.
HB 1540 is an attempt by state lawmakers to punish those who buy sex in an effort to help curb its demand. The thought is that if the customer base shrinks, human trafficking – which targets children and other vulnerable people in the community – will lessen the demand.
Here’s what you need to know about the new law and what someone convicted of human trafficking faces if they are convicted in Texas.
What is HB 1540?
When someone buys sex from an adult, they will now face charges and penalties associated with a state jail felony. If found guilty, a person convicted of a state jail felony can spend up to two years behind bars, and they may be responsible for fines as high as $10,000.
The bill also makes it more difficult for those who perpetrate human trafficking to target vulnerable people, such as children in state Residential Treatment Centers.
Through this bill, the following actions can be taken:
- Those who run Residential Treatment Centers must post “no trespassing” signs on the property
- Law enforcement can stop anyone in the “no trespassing” areas and request identification
- Residential Treatment Centers will be designated as child safety zones
What Is Human Trafficking in Texas?
HB 1540 was created with the purpose to reduce the amount of human trafficking that occurs in Texas.
State law defines human trafficking as “recruiting, harboring, providing, transporting, enticing, or otherwise obtaining a person by any means to either work forced labor or in commercial sex”.
This new law separates the trafficking of adults and children as two separate offenses.
Adult trafficking occurs when someone:
- Knowingly trafficks a person over 18 for the sole purpose of forced labor
- Receives a benefit from obtaining the person trafficked
- Trafficks an adult through coercion, fraud, or force
In regards to children, it is illegal to knowingly traffick someone under the age of 18 for the same reasons as an adult. The penalties are simply greater, and the charges more serious, since they often involved aggravated sexual assault, continuous sexual abuse of a child, or promotion of prostitution.
Penalties for Human Trafficking
Aside from the new penalties under HB 1540, human trafficking charges in Texas are felonies. If convicted, it can result in a sentence of up to 99 years in prison, with fines of as much as $10,000 for first-degree charges. If convicted of second-degree charges, you can still face as many as 20 years in prison and fines of $10,000.