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.

Utah Mother Arrested Days After Seeking Help for Drug Addiction

A young Utah mother was arrested five days after reaching out to friends and family online along with a treatment center, seeking help for her drug addiction.

Arrested for drugs

Seeking Help for Drug Addiction

Photo Courtesy of Facebook

On April 9th, 2017 Provo police arrested 24 year old Arali Cabezas and an older male after they were found in a stolen car with several lifted identification documents as well as methamphetamine and several needles. Cabezas was booked into Utah County Jail on theft charges as well as two second degree felonies for receiving a stolen vehicle and possession of a schedule I controlled substance. Her bail is set at $12,500 and 11 days later she has yet to be released on bond.

Good person, bad choices

According to her Facebook page, Cabezas is a single parent and the mother of a little boy – 15 month old Kaison. Upon news of her arrest, friends and family commented shock and sadness, one of which said “part of recovery is having support, and she doesn’t have much of that. She really is an amazing girl inside and out and she is so dang smart, she just made some really dumb choices.” Another individual commented stating “when you are raised by two addicts and exposed to a life of drug use and abuse, and even taught how to use drugs by your parents, you don’t have much chance of doing any better in life.”

Seeking help for a drug addiction

Photo by: Max Baars

Photo by: Max Baars

According to her own Facebook page five days before her arrest, Cabezas was trying to do better. She swallowed her price and reached out for help with her drug addiction. She is quoted as saying “So I have a [question]. Do any of my friends have any information about The House of Hope? I will be looking it up and what not [too]. If you can let me know as soon as possible.” After receiving a handful of helpful comments, Cabezas stated that same day that she “called and left a message with admissions.” Five days later however she was arrested.

Drug treatment center

The House of Hope is drug treatment center located in Salt Lake City and Provo that focuses its care on women who may or may not be pregnant as well as mothers who have young children. As with other wonderful treatment centers for drug addiction, House of Hope is a non profit organization and offers many services such as outpatient care residential and day treatment. Had Cabezas found herself in the care of the House of Hope, it is likely she would have received substantial treatment for her drug addiction. There is no added information on whether or not Cabezas got cold feet and decided not to get help for her drug addiction or if she somehow slipped between the cracks, perhaps not receiving a call back from the  for help with her drug addiction. Either way, she was arrested five days later and now she sits in jail awaiting a court date. Cabezas faces a possibility of up to 15 years in prison for her drug and theft crimes; double that amount if she is convicted of both felonies and ordered to serve them consecutively, one right after the other.

Treatment for substance abuse

Photo by: Alan Cleaver

Photo by: Alan Cleaver

Utah residents who are struggling with drug addiction are encouraged to seek help just as Cabezas but be relentless and not give up. There are multiple programs throughout Utah aimed at helping residents recover from substance and alcohol abuse, and many of these programs are funded through the state. Those individuals who need help with addiction, but who are also facing criminal charges should contact a defense attorney who can help them work on defending or reducing charges while also ensuring that treatment is made available, whether voluntarily or mandatory. For more information, contact a criminal defense attorney.