Human Trafficking of a Vulnerable Adult in Utah

Utah Human Trafficking laws up for amendments involving a vulnerable adult may cause legal trouble to those who are caring for a friend with mental illness or addiction. The Utah Human Trafficking laws are meant to catch and prosecute those who are practicing a modern version of slavery, but it can be misapplied to something as simple as expecting a ”live-In” friend with a drug addiction to clean the house in order to live at the residence.

Increased focus to stop human trafficking

Photo by: Imagens Evangélicas

Human trafficking has become a major problem in the United States. Human trafficking can take on several faces such as transporting a person across state lines without their permission, forced prostitution or forced employment. This growing crime is on many law makers’ radar and most states have made changes to their current laws to address this problem. There are several new advocacy groups forming and many panel discussions to bring this problem to the forefront as well as increased education into the matter.

Training for professionals

In the effort to combat human trafficking, one beneficial step is to train those in certain employments to recognize the signs of a trafficked person. Some of those professions being encouraged to receive training on how to spot human traffickers or their victims are:

Truck drivers: Many states are requiring training on human trafficking in order to receive their CDL licenses. The hope is that truck drivers will see instances of people being transported against their will. Most rest areas and truck stops now have signs posted regarding human trafficking.

Medical professionals: Physicians are another occupation encouraged to receive training. Many people that have escaped from their captors had received medical care during their captivity. Doctors and nurses can see signs of abuse while treating a patient. They can also see signs of repeated abortions, STD’s, or infections which are all indications of a victim of human trafficking.

Law enforcement: Police officers are also important in the fight against human trafficking. Officers can be aware of the disconcerting interaction between two people. One example would be if a person has an attitude of servitude or fear when bailing out another.

Vulnerable adult

Photo by: Kiran Foster

Along with educating the public and certain professionals, laws regarding human trafficking have been amended to include protection for overlooked victims. In January House Bill 20 was amended to clarify the language for human trafficking and to add an offense for trafficking a vulnerable adult. The new bill for a vulnerable adult reads: “Human trafficking of a vulnerable adult for forced labor” while one place of forced labor is defined as being in “households”. According to Utah House Bill 0020:
“Vulnerable adult” means an elder adult, or an adult 18 years of age or older who has a mental or physical impairment which substantially affects that person’s ability to:
(i) provide personal protection;
(ii) provide necessities such as food, shelter, clothing, or medical or other health care;
(iii) obtain services necessary for health, safety, or welfare;
(iv) carry out the activities of daily living;
(v) manage the adult’s own resources; or
(vi) comprehend the nature and consequences of remaining in a situation of abuse, neglect, or exploitation.”

With this addition to the human trafficking laws, it is possible that those responsible for looking out for the best interest of vulnerable adults such as medical professionals and law enforcement may misunderstand the dynamic of the home in which the vulnerable adult has been allowed to live.

Forced labor or earning your keep

With a push to end a societal problem, there are instances when innocent people can often be labeled as criminal human traffickers. There are many individuals in Utah who are struggling with a mental illness or a drug addiction that could cause them to be defined as a vulnerable adult. Family members or friends attempting to care for their struggling loved ones may face criminal charges if, in an attempt to help their loved one feel productive by pitching in around the house, they force them to perform household chores in order to “earn their keep”. While those carrying for a mentally ill or addicted vulnerable adult could feel they are serving that individual by encouraging productiveness, Utah law may see it as the vulnerable adult being forced to serve them. Anyone facing any charges stemming from their willingness to help a vulnerable adult are encouraged to seek immediate legal counsel from a qualified defense attorney.

Results of Ballot Initiatives that May Surprise You

The ballots have been cast and the voters have decided; here are some initiatives from around the nation with results that may surprise you.

Photo by: Kelly Minars

Photo by: Kelly Minars

Legalization of marijuana

Some feel the legalization of marijuana is an issue that should’ve been resolved on a national level long ago. As it stands however, marijuana laws differ by state.

Marijuana Initiatives

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• Before Tuesday’s polls, medical marijuana was legal in 18 states; that number is currently 22. Now residents of Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota who are suffering from medical conditions such as epilepsy, glaucoma, and chronic pain will now be able to use medical marijuana that includes the psychoactive ingredient THC to help treat their symptoms.

• For those who wish to have the plant for leisure use: California, Nevada, and Massachusetts voters have joined with those in other states including Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington (and Washington D.C.) by voting in majority of initiatives that legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Maine could join that list, but currently is 50/50 while they wait for the 2% that haven’t reported yet. 52% of Arizona voters chose to stick with medical marijuana only while Utah didn’t even have marijuana on the ballot; the beehive state currently allows limited medical marijuana only along with 14 other states.

Death penalty

Capital punishment continues to be a sensitive issue. Many believe that those offenders who are found guilty of the most heinous of crimes should be removed from existence while others don’t believe taking a life is ever okay. Three states had initiatives on the ballot regarding the death penalty:

Photo by: Global Panorama

Photo by: Global Panorama

• California voters chose to not only keep the death penalty, but to hasten the time it takes for executions to be carried out.

• Residents in Oklahoma chose to protect the death penalty by amending the state constitution and giving lawmakers the option to choose other methods of execution if needed.

• The people of Nebraska chose to bring back the death penalty after their state legislature voted to abolish it just last year. Nebraska rejoins 30 other states that currently support the death penalty.

• The death penalty was not on the ballot for Utah where it is legal and usually carried out by lethal injection. The firing squad is another option however, with this method being used last in June of 2010 for the capital punishment of Ronnie Gardner.

Gun laws

With the countless incidents around the country where innocent people have lost their lives at the hands of crazed individuals wielding guns, some states chose to add initiatives to the ballots which toughen laws regarding gun control.

Photo by: frankieleon

Photo by: frankieleon

• 63% of California residents voted “yes” on proposition 63 which would require background checks on individuals purchasing any ammo and outlaw the possession of large capacity magazines.

• Residents in Washington State voted to allow judges the right to limit a person’s access to firearms temporarily if a family member or roommate of said person states they are displaying signs of behavioral or mental instability which may lead to a greater chance of them hurting someone including themselves.

• By a very slim margin, Nevada voters chose to require background checks for all sales of firearms.

• Maine was the only state with initiatives regarding gun laws on the ballot that chose not to toughen those laws. 52% of Maine voters chose to allow sales of guns between two parties, even if neither one is a licensed dealer.

• Utah is one of the states with more lenient gun laws and it will likely stay that way a while as nothing was included on the 2016 ballot. Currently Utah does not require background checks for gun purchases, has Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground laws, as well as allows open carry without a permit as long as firearms are not loaded.

Other noteworthy initiatives

With hundreds of initiatives on the ballots nationwide, there were a few that caught the attention of residents and media nationwide:

Ballot Initiatives

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• Minimum wage increase. Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and Washington all had initiatives to increase the minimum wage with Arizona and Washington also including paid sick leave for employees. South Dakota tried to decrease the minimum wage for employees under the age of 18 years old but that initiative was highly rejected.

• Assisted suicide. Colorado joined California, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington by voting “yes” to allow terminally ill patients of sound mind the right to end their lives by taking lethal drugs prescribed to them by a physician.

• Condoms for porn stars. 54% of California residents voted “no” to requiring actors in porn films to wear condoms during sex scenes. Perhaps the other parts to Proposition 60 that required film producers to obtain a health license and pay for numerous medical necessities of their paid actors is what drove voters to not pass the initiative.

For more information on the initiatives and poll results for the state of Utah, go to electionresults.utah.gov .