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Sex Trafficking Cases: Where a Public Movement Meets the Criminal Justice System

Minnesota’s Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Youth Law (“Safe Harbor”) was passed in 2011 and became fully effective in 2014. It mandated changes to ensure that laws would no longer punish sexually exploited youth but instead would treat them as crime victims in need of services. Soon after, in 2012, WATCH began to see a dramatic rise in cases in Hennepin County where complaints contained charges under Minnesota Statute 609.322 (Herein “609.322”), the statute entitled “Solicitation, Inducement and Promotion of Prostitution: Sex Trafficking.” Recognizing this trend, WATCH launched its Sex Trafficking Initiative in January 2014. In an effort to see how such cases were resolved once they were handed over to the state for prosecution, WATCH tracked a total of 107 cases, encompassing all juvenile and adult cases filed in Hennepin (71) and Ramsey Counties (36) between January 1, 2012 and August 30, 2016 that included charges under 609.322.