CHEYENNE – A bill that would impose tougher penalties for subsequent human trafficking violations and a bill that would help standardize court abstracts were passed Tuesday morning by the House Judiciary Committee.
The bills will now go back to the House floor, where they will need to pass three readings to advance to the Senate.
House Bill 10, the human trafficking bill, was first brought up during the interim session. If approved as written, someone convicted of human trafficking in the first degree could face five to 50 years in prison, unless the victim is a minor, in which case the minimum sentence rises to 25 years in prison. In either case, the penalty also could include a fine of not more than $10,000.
Under the proposal, someone convicted of human trafficking in the second degree could face two to 20 years in prison and a fine of not more than $10,000 or both.
The committee voted unanimously in support of the bill.
Rep. Charles Pelkey, D-Laramie, proposed an amendment to get rid of the mandatory minimum sentence in the bill, though it ultimately failed.
“I am generally uncomfortable with the concept of mandatory minimum sentence because it takes away from the court the ability to consider mitigating factors,” he said. “My own experience in front of judges, when there’s a particularly egregious violation, is they tend to go toward the maximums anyway.”
Also unanimously passed was House Bill 9, which would require courts to provide abstracts of court records. Courts are already doing this, but having this bill would make it a uniform process.
The bill is mainly administrative, and would apply when the new case management system is implemented in circuit and district courts throughout the state. Currently, the new case management system is in some circuit courts, and district courts will start moving to this system after completion of the circuit court systems.
The bill standardizes the way court abstracts are produced, formatted and the information they contain. Though the bill doesn’t have a fiscal note, in the future, if courts want to be able to share this information with each other, it will cost around $500,000.
“It became apparent that every court had a different court abstract because you can configure the system to pull out different information based on the requests of the party,” said Ronda Munger, deputy state court administrator. “(The) reason this became important as we are moving toward digital courts and digital information is really important that we’re pulling out the same information out of every court system.”
The way the current statute is written, when people or government agencies request records, they’re all getting different information. As the courts move more to digital, it’s important to have uniform electronic data transfers.