032415CM0975 rSPRINGFIELD – Victims of human trafficking would receive newfound protections under a proposed law sponsored by Senator John Mulroe (D-Chicago) that cleared the Illinois Senate today.

Mulroe’s Senate Bill 1588 would provide victims of sex trafficking with an affirmative defense when charged with prostitution. By using an affirmative defense, the legal ramifications of criminal charges would be defeated by that action.

Under the current law, a person who knowingly performs any sexual act in return for something of value is guilty of prostitution, which holds a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and/or a fine of $2,500.

“Victims of sex trafficking live in a dark and heart-breaking world that often traps them in a terrible cycle, but what’s worse is when our justice system fails them,” said Mulroe. “By allowing for this affirmative defense, these women will get their lives back on track and live healthier and more fulfilling lives, and hopefully serve justice to the real criminals in these cases.”

Janell Wheeler previously testified in the Senate Criminal Law Committee that while she was a victim of human trafficking, her pimp ruptured her eardrum, burned her body and beat her until she suffered broken bones. All the while, this man forced her to sell her body, for which she was arrested and faced criminal charges.

“I want to make sure that we are helping these people, not incarcerating them,” Mulroe said.

The Senate approved the proposal 55 to 0. Mulroe’s legislation now advances to the House.

Video testimony from Janell Wheeler can be found at this link.

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