Senate: Criminal Law - Human Trafficking - Affirmative Defense

SB 520, Support

The Maryland Catholic Conference (“Conference”) represents the public-policy interests of the three Roman Catholic (arch)dioceses serving Maryland: the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington.

SB 520 establishes the provision of an affirmative defense of duress if a defendant committed the act of prostitution as a result of being a victim of an act of another committed in violation of the human trafficking law. The defendant must make intentions of asserting the affirmative defense known to the State's Attorney.

There is a growing recognition that many people who are arrested for prostitution are, in fact, victims of human trafficking. A person involved with prostitution is not typically engaging in those acts of his/her own accord. The Catholic Church vehemently opposes human trafficking because it disregards the dignity of human life by buying, selling, and trading human beings as if they were merchandise .

The provision of an affirmative defense of duress in cases of prostitution would enable victims of trafficking to be directed to services that aid in their healing rather than incarcerating them. Reframing prostitution to see people as victims instead of perpetrators promotes the dignity of their lives and can effectively lead them on the path to healing.

The Conference appreciates your consideration and urges your favorable support of SB 520.