Texas Supreme Court Ruling May Impact Georgia

I realize there are only 6 days until the Primary Elections (and yes I’m working hard to win my race), but this article hits on an issue I’m very passionate about.

Regular readers of Peach Pundit will remember the fight that erupted during this year’s legislative session over the issue of the commercial sexual exploitation of children (see here, here, and here). A new ruling by the Texas Supreme Court may turn the tide in favor of Senator Unterman’s position that children under the age of 16, who cannot under Georgia law consent to sex, should be treated as victims of sex trafficking and receive help, not treated as criminals.

On June 18, the Texas Supreme Court might have changed the landscape, when it decided In the Matter of B.W., a case in which a 13-year-old was charged with prostitution. She had been living with her 32-year old “boyfriend” and was arrested for prostitution by an undercover officer. Noting the “special vulnerability of children,” the court held that a child under the legal age of consent cannot be deemed criminally liable for the crime of prostitution.

The opinion is worth reading, as it methodically answers every question raised by skeptics. Yes, there are many. This year, in Georgia, several concerned legislators attempted to fix a similar flaw in the state’s law, to ensure sexually exploited children are not further victimized by being arrested and charged with a crime. The bill died in committee.

Opponents of “safe harbor” laws argue that they will create a loophole for pimps to exploit. The Texas court has answered that charge: Treating sexually exploited children as crime victims does not change the fact that pimps and johns can be charged with sexual exploitation of a minor. Also, as the court explains, if the concern is being able to help these children, then the juvenile justice system is not our only option.

6 comments

  1. Rick Day says:

    I approve this. Too many times, young sex workers have been subjected to bully-rape by juvenile supervisors, inmates and others within the system. The entire juvie detention system is a community college for recruiting young criminals.

    We do not serve our children right by utilizing ‘adult-lite’ programs to ‘help’ them, no matter what the program.

    Well done, SCOTX

  2. This issue is a black eye on our state and one that needs to be a priority for our legislature. One of my law school classmates is heading up a project that is being funded by King and Spalding to tackle the issue of child trafficking in the state.

    I hope this will be an issue that Buzz and I can tackle together next year.

  3. Josh4507 says:

    The image you have in your head of who these girls are is not accurate. A child kidnapped and forced into prostitution is not prosecuted, period. Where are the juvenile court judges on this issue? Do you really think that law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and juvenile court judges are prosecuting children for bing victims?!?!?! NO, absolutely not. The girls that end up in an RYDC are girls that need to be there for thier own safety. The ONLY children that are locked up are ones that have been placed there after a judge has decided it best. FACT: You cannot place a child in RYDC and “forget” about them or “throw them away”. I agree, RYDC’s are not fun places and they do provide an environment where kids learn crime from kids BUT Suzie, snatched from her bedroom and forced onto the street does not go there, she goes home to her parents. Janie, who has run away 3 times this month does, and rightfully so. Janie is safer in an RYDC than she is on Metro.

    You think, if we just give this girl the option to go to a girls home, she’ll choose to give up the streets. She has that option, from day one. “the juvenile justice system is not our only option”, wow, Texas just removed it as an option thus making less options. Please don’t make a knee jerk decision based on conventional wisdom. Some of these children need to be on probation, drug tested, and monitored, it’s for thier own good! Read OCGA 15-1-1 and don’t insult the professionals who work with these kids every day, rehabilitaiton is the focus, always.

    • Buzz and I had long discussions on exactly these issues, Josh, which I saw a fatal flaws in the legislation that was proposed during the session. Any legislation needs to have input from the courts and the Georgia Prosecuting Attorneys Council to make sure that the ramifications of the legislation aren’t that it further ties the hands of law enforcement to go after the more serious offenders, the pimps and child traffickers.

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