Raleigh, N.C. — The state Senate will likely vote next week on a bill requiring human traffickers whose victims are minors to register as sex offenders, whether or not the trafficking was for sexual purposes.
Human trafficking for involuntary servitude or sexual servitude is already a felony in North Carolina. Senate Bill 122 would simply add the names of sex traffickers and those who transport minors to the sex offender registry.
The Senate Judiciary 1 Committee unanimously approved the measure Thursday.
Still, some members of the committee expressed concern about using the sex offender registry for people convicted of non-sexual crimes, like trafficking teens for domestic work.
"If sex offender registries are there for a reason," asked Sen. Dan Blue, "why are we mixing them up with those who have nothing to do with sex violations? It takes them out of society totally – where they can stay, where they can work, what they can do."
Blue, D-Wake, and Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt suggested lawmakers should consider creating a second registry for crimes that aren't sexual in nature. Sponsor Sen. Thom Goolsby, R-New Hanover, said he would support the idea, citing a client whose photo on the sex offender registry led to him being falsely accused of a crime 10 years later.
But for now, Goolsby said, it's better to be safe than sorry, especially when the victims are minors.
"If you go so far as to enslave a person, and they're totally submitted to your will," he said, "even if it's supposedly just for work, we still want those people to be registered and reported."
Goolsby pointed out that federal law already classifies some other non-sexual crimes as registry offenses, like kidnapping. He said the intent is to avoid creating a loophole for traffickers transporting minors to the sex trade who are caught before a sex offense has been committed.
Tami Fitzgerald with the North Carolina Values Coalition said her group supports the legislation.
"Most people who are trafficking minors are doing it with an aim to do it for sex trafficking," even if it starts out as domestic servitude, Fitzgerald said. "Putting them on the registry will deter some sex trafficking."
The measure's next stop is the Senate floor. With 26 out of 50 senators already signed on as sponsors and co-sponsors, it's expected to pass easily.