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Human Trafficking, Institutional Desecration, Uniform Securities Reforms Advance with Support of Attorney General Nessel
November 10, 2023
LANSING – Yesterday, the Michigan legislature advanced three legislative priorities from Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and the Department which would reform the state’s human trafficking, hate crimes and uniform securities statutes.
Passed Senate Committee on Civil Rights, Judiciary & Public Senate
Senate Bills 515-517 (sponsored by Senators Rosemary Bayer, Sue Shink and Stephanie Chang) are also supported by the Michigan Human Trafficking Commission, which is housed within the Michigan Department of Attorney General. They include long-awaited reforms that will protect human trafficking victims and provide them with rights in court that are similar to those currently provided under law to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.
“From Western Upper Peninsula to Southeastern Michigan, no region is immune to this crime,” said Nessel. “Traffickers use control and submission to exploit their victims, subjecting them to sexual, physical and emotional abuse. These reforms will provide Michigan law enforcement officers and prosecutors with additional tools to help prosecute those who engage in this heinous, criminal behavior.”
This legislation will:
- Add to the hearsay exception and allow for such statements to come in if they were made not only by a victim of domestic violence, but also a victim of human trafficking.
- Expand the reach of the statute that allows for admission of other prior similar acts to include admission of other acts of commercial sexual activity, prostitution, and human trafficking, instead of only in domestic violence or sexual assault cases.
- Help protect victims of these crimes by making it more difficult for their abusers and traffickers to escape punishment by allowing a jury to consider such individuals true nature and scheme and plan regarding these types of crimes.
- Allow for the compelling of a witnesses’ testimony but would prohibit the use of that testimony to be used against the witness.
- Ensure that minor participants and victims of human trafficking don’t fail to cooperate just because they may implicate themselves in some other type of crime, or even in a crime under this chapter.
The Department of Attorney General testified in support of these bills before the Senate Civil Rights, Judiciary and Public Safety Committee. Since 2011, the Department of the Attorney General has provided training to more than 3,000 professionals and filed charges against 35 individuals for human trafficking, which all led to arrests. The Department also has successfully convicted 29 people, with cases against several additional defendants pending.
The Commission has continued its public awareness efforts through updates. Every time a new resource is available, it's announced through the Commission's updates page online. Residents can sign up online to receive Commission updates. More information on the Human Trafficking Commission and how to report and identify the crime is available here.
Passed Both Chambers, Moves to Governor’s Office
House Bills 4476 and 4477, sponsored by Representatives Noah Arbit and Ranjeev Puri, adds an Institutional Desecration statute within Michigan’s penal code. These bills were originally introduced as a part of the Hate Crimes Bill Package, which would update Michigan’s 1988 Ethnic Intimidation Act
“This legislation sends a strong message that people who maliciously and with specific intent destroy, damage, deface, or vandalize institutions because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, physical or mental disability, age, ethnicity, or national origin of another individual or group of individuals will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” said Nessel.
Bias-motivated crimes have been on the rise across the United States and in Michigan, which was ranked 5th in the nation in hate crimes reported. Both the Anti-Defamation League and the Center for American Islamic Relations have reported a spike in bias-motivated incidents following the current conflict in the Middle East.
If you are a victim of a hate crime or have credible information about a hate crime, please contact your local police department first and then the Hate Crimes and Domestic Terrorism Unit at the Department of Attorney General via email or at 313-456-0040. The Department of Attorney General will follow up on every credible tip, will launch independent investigations when sufficient cause exists, and will offer departmental resources to assist our law enforcement partners.
Uniform Securities Act
Passed Both Chambers, Moves to Governor’s Office
The Michigan Senate also advanced HB 4197, sponsored by Representative Angela Witwer, which amends the Uniform Securities Act, which authorizes agents to place a 15-day hold on securities transactions if and when financial exploitation is suspected. This legislation is a key initiative from the Elder Abuse Task Force (EATF) and builds upon the Financial Exploitation Protection Act which was signed into law in 2020.
Michigan's EATF was created by AG Nessel in 2019 and consists of more than 55 different organizations and more than 100 individuals in the public, private and nonprofit sections - all working together to combat elder abuse.
It is estimated that more than 100,000 older adults in Michigan are victims of elder abuse, and that less than half of all instances are reported to authorities. Michigan residents seeking elder abuse resources are encouraged to call 800-24-ABUSE (22873), or 855-444-3911 to report suspected elder abuse.