Increases Penalties For Sex Trafficking, Requires Offenders To Register In New Mexico

Santa Fe, N.M.—Today, House Bill 237 passed the House Judiciary Committee by a 10-1 vote. Sponsored by Representatives Georgene Louis (D-Albuquerque), Matthew McQueen (D-Santa Fe), Joseph Sanchez (D-Alcalde), and Elizabeth “Liz” Thomson (D-Albuquerque), the bill aims to improve protections for victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation of children by increasing penalties for these crimes and raising the age cut-off of child victims from 16 to 18. The bill also expands the categories of sex offenders who are required to register in New Mexico to include human traffickers and out-of-state sex offenders who own property in New Mexico.

“House Bill 237 will stop New Mexico from being a ‘safe haven’ for sex offenders coming from other states or countries,” said Representative Georgene Louis (D-Albuquerque). “I am proud to sponsor this bill that takes great strides towards protecting New Mexico’s most vulnerable children and people of all ages.”

“New Mexico is committed to protecting all its citizens, especially children and House Bill 237 will give law enforcement, along with local communities, the tools they need to keep their families and neighbors safe,” said Elizabeth “Liz” Thomson (D-Albuquerque).

Victim advocates and one of the state's leading law enforcement experts on the issue say trafficking is rampant across New Mexico. The penalty for a sex trafficking conviction is currently up to three years, which is lower than penalties for drug trafficking. This bill would increase the term to nine years for trafficking of adults and eighteen years for trafficking of children. Supporters of the bill argued that increasing penalties would act as a deterrent, as well as signal to victims that New Mexico takes sexually-based crimes extremely seriously. 

House Bill 257’s implementation would address offenses committed in New Mexico similar to the high-profile case of Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged sex-trafficking. Despite being registered in another jurisdiction and owning property in New Mexico, Epstein was not required to register as a sex offender in the state. Under the proposed legislation, convicted individuals would be required to register in New Mexico, alerting law enforcement and communities to the potential dangers of their presence.

House Bill 237 passed the House Judiciary Committee with a bipartisan vote of 10-1and advances to the House Appropriations and Finance Committee.