Gov. Neil Abercrombie today signed into law bills that substantially increase the penalties for sex and labor trafficking.
The measures show the state’s “commitment to end trafficking in human beings” and “send a strong message against exploitation of human beings in any context,” Abercrombie said.
He was joined in the ceremony by Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro and a number of legislative and community leaders who backed the bills.
House bill 240 makes many sex trafficking offenses class A felonies, punishable by 20-year prison sentences.
Lesser related offenses also have been increased to class B felonies which carry 10-year terms of imprisonment.
The new law also allows the Attorney General to expend witness security and protection funds for the safekeeping of prosecution witnesses in sex trafficking cases.
The law previously stressed use of such funds in organized crime and racketeering related investigations.
The labor trafficking bill, House Bill 141, was passed and enacted as a major criminal case is pending in federal court here against local farm owners accused of illegally importing and exploiting hundreds of agricultural laborers from Thailand.
Like the sex-trafficking measure, the labor bill elevates many trafficking activities to class A and B felonies.