Substantive committees have closed for the 2015 state legislative session. House Bill 3040 did not pass the Senate Judiciary Committee, and therefore will not pass the Legislature this session. However, during a public hearing on Tuesday, May 19, Committee Chair, Senator Prozanski committed to establishing a work group to consider a hearsay exception for sex trafficking cases. We look forward to a report from this work group proposing a consensus approach to enacting a hearsay exception for human trafficking victims in the 2016 legislative session.
Issue Brief: HB 3040 Relating to Admissibility of Hearsay Statements
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After extensive physical and psychological abuse, victims of sex trafficking may not be able to testify in court and confront a perpetrator who raped them or profited from their exploitation. Traffickers’ use of physical violence, subtle manipulation and even promises of love, allow them to control victims. Survivors may not recognize their own victimization and often seek to protect their trafficker. This trauma-bonding and fear of retribution often leaves victims unable to testify effectively about their experiences as a trafficking victim. Without victim testimony, proving human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children offenses can be extremely challenging.
Previous communications, such as emails, text messages or voice mail recordings can be powerful pieces of evidence. However, these types of evidence are often excluded by hearsay rules which often leave prosecutions relying too heavily on traumatized victims to take the stand in court and face grueling questioning about the details of their victimization. As a result, victims are often forced to choose between their restoration and justice.
What the Bill Does
House Bill 3040, as amended, establishes a study within the Oregon Law Commission regarding changes to the law concerning hearsay statements in sex trafficking cases. The bill requires a report and recommendations from the Commission by December 2015, in time to introduce a bill proposing a human trafficking hearsay exception in the next legislative session.
The Commission would likely review and analyze the provisions of House Bill 3040, as it was introduced, which would have offered an innovative way to present reliable evidence of human trafficking. The original bill would have created a hearsay exception for victims of human trafficking, meaning that statements from the victims about their trafficking could be presented in court without the victim necessarily having to testify in person. Writings, such as information in text messages and emails, or recordings would be able to be heard in court, if the presiding judge decides that the statement is reliable based on surrounding circumstances.
Supporters of HB 3040, Hearsay Exception for Human Trafficking Victims
HB 3040 was introduced by Representatives Taylor and Huffman with the support of a work group which includes:
- Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office
- Oregon U.S. Attorney’s Office
- Oregon Attorney General
- U.S. Senator Ron Wyden
- Oregon Department of Human Services
- CSEC Steering Committee of Multnomah County
Regular Bill Sponsors:
- Representative Buehler
- Representative Gilliam
- Representative Keny-Guyer
These groups also support HB 3040:
- Oregon Chiefs of Police
- Oregon Sheriffs
- Hope 82
- The Junior League of Portland