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

Santa Fe, N.M.—Today, House Bill 237, making important changes to current sex-trafficking and sexual exploitation statutes, unanimously passed the House. Sponsored by Representatives Georgene Louis (D-Albuquerque), Elizabeth “Liz” Thomson (D-Albuquerque), Matthew McQueen (D-Santa Fe), and Joseph Sanchez (D-Alcalde), the bill strengthens protections for victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation of children by increasing penalties and raising the age cut-off of child victims from 16 to 18. The bill also requires that human traffickers and out-of-state sex offenders who own property in New Mexico register in the state.

“Sexual exploitation and human trafficking are social evils that greatly impact communities throughout New Mexico. I am proud to sponsor House Bill 237 and I am committed to protecting all New Mexicans, especially children,” said Representative Georgene Louis (D-Albuquerque). 

“House Bill 237 is a meaningful step towards stopping the abuse and exploitation that's devastating our kids, our families, and our communities. I am proud to sponsor these measures that will give law enforcement, along with local communities, the tools they need to keep our families and neighbors safe and the ability to justly prosecute those who commit these kinds of abuses,” said Representative Elizabeth “Liz” Thomson (D-Albuquerque).

Victim advocates and leading law enforcement experts 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 anyone under 18. The bill sends a signal to victims that New Mexico takes sexually-based crimes extremely seriously and is here to support them. 

House Bill 237 would address sex-trafficking offenses similar to the high-profile case of Jeffrey Epstein. 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 this 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 unanimously and advances to the Senate.