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New Oklahoma Laws Intended to Reduce Human Trafficking

08-Nov-2013

Typically, the bills passed by the Oklahoma legislature and signed into law by the governor in the spring take effect on November 1 each year. Last week, some 240 laws and amendments became active, including several intended to disrupt and prevent human trafficking and to provide relief for victims of human trafficking.

Of particular note is Oklahoma House Bill 1508. This law amends the Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Act, codified beginning in 63 O.S.§ 2-101, to allow greater power to the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (OBN) in expediting the identification and rescue of victims of human trafficking. As a result of the law, 63 O.S.§ 2-101.1A is amended to read, in part, as follows:

"In any investigation relating to the functions of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control pursuant to the provisions of the Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Act with respect to controlled substances or other provisions of Oklahoma law with respect to the crimes of money laundering and human trafficking, the Director of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control, if recommended and approved by a chief agent of the Bureau and the legal counsel of the Bureau, may subpoena witnesses, compel the attendance and testimony of witnesses, and require the production of any records, including books, papers, documents, and other tangible things which constitute or contain evidence, which the Director or agent finds relevant or material to the investigation."

Since the late 1980s, the OBN has had subpoena power over evidence in drug crimes, and now that power is expanded to allow the agency to subpoena evidence in human trafficking crimes. According to agency spokesman Mark Woodward, this subpoena power "will allow our Human Trafficking Unit to quickly obtain information such as cell phone location data, hotel records and witness testimony that could help speed up the process of locating and rescuing victims." He explains that in such cases, "Time is absolutely critical . . . . Literally every second counts."

Other laws pertaining to human trafficking which took effect on November 1, 2013, include HB 1067 and HB 1058.

HB 1067 amends 21 O.S.§ 748.2 regarding the treatment of victims of human trafficking. The law now reads that, in addition to other rights of human trafficking victims, a law enforcement officer who comes in contact with such a person must inform his or her of the human trafficking hotline and his or her rights. If the victim is a minor under the age of 18, the law enforcement officer must also notify the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, and the minor will be in the custody of DHS for up to 72 hours during a joint investigation by DHS and law enforcement, and pending a show-cause hearing.

Codified under 22 O.S. § 19c, HB 1058 allows the expungement of prostitution convictions for victims of human trafficking. This law expands current expungement requirements and reads as follows:

"The court, upon its own motion or upon petition by the defendant and for good cause shown, may enter an order for expungement of law enforcement and court records relating to a charge or conviction for a prostitution-related offense committed as a result of the defendant having been a victim of human trafficking. The order shall contain a statement that the expungement is ordered pursuant to this section. An order entered pursuant to this section shall be subject to the notice requirements and provisions of subsections B through M of Section 19 of Title 22 of the Oklahoma Statutes. Records expunged pursuant to this section shall be sealed to the public but not to law enforcement agencies for law enforcement purposes."

To find out more about Oklahoma prostitution and human trafficking laws, visit our website, or click here to find out more about expunging a criminal record. Contact us to schedule a free, confidential consultation with an experienced defense lawyer.



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