City successfully lobbies for new law to help fight juvenile sex trafficking

The City of Minneapolis successfully lobbied the Minnesota Legislature for a new criminal law making it a felony to solicit for prostitution any person whom the defendant reasonably believes to be under the age of 18. 

This law came about as a result of work by City Attorney Susan Segal and Sgt. Grant Snyder, the City’s lead investigator for juvenile sex trafficking cases.  While it was already a felony with a three-year maximum sentence to solicit children 15 and younger for sex, it was only a misdemeanor to solicit 16- and 17-year-olds. Segal drafted the new provision, and the City brought it to the Minnesota Legislature. The proposal was included in the Omnibus Public Safety and Judiciary Finance and Policy Bill signed by Gov. Dayton May 22. The new law goes into effect Aug. 1.

Under the new law, soliciting anyone the defendant reasonably believes to be under the age of 18 for prostitution will be punishable by up to five years in prison. Under previous law, soliciting 16- or 17-year olds to engage in prostitution was only a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor carrying a maximum sentence of 90 days or one year, respectively.

The new law also allows law enforcement to conduct sting operations using adult police investigators to pose as underage victims through online ads, text messages and the like. The law did not include this type of provision previously, making it difficult to prosecute police sting cases, at least in those cases where the offender thought the victim was older than 15. Law enforcement will use the law to build cases against those who use Backpage and similar websites to solicit anyone under the age of 18. It is important to spread the word that an offender responding to an online ad may in fact be texting a police officer – not an underage child – and that the offender will be arrested and charged with committing a felony.

Published Jun 2, 2015

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