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
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.
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.