California Voters’ Guide 2012: Proposition 35

Policy Brief

California Voters’ Guide 2012: Proposition 35

Among a daunting package of ballot questions, here is the free minds and free markets perspective on proposition 35.

Proposition 35: Increased Punishment for Human Trafficking

Proposition 35 would increase punishments for people convicted of human trafficking. Human trafficking is primarily the holding of women or girls against their will and forcing them into prostitution. The law would also make sex traffickers register as sex offenders and require registered sex offenders to disclose their Internet accounts.

Fiscal Impact

The Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates that Prop. 35 would likely mean: (a) small increased costs of perhaps a few million dollars for prosecution and incarceration of human trafficking offenders; (b) potential one-time local government costs of up to a few million dollars total, and lesser additional costs incurred each year, to pay for human trafficking-related training for law enforcement officers required by Prop. 35; and (c) potential additional revenue from new criminal fines, likely a few million dollars annually, which would fund services for human trafficking victims and for law enforcement activities related to human trafficking.

Arguments for Proposition 35

Supporters of Prop. 35 argue that he prevalence and anonymity of the Internet has fueled the rapid growth of sex trafficking, making the trade of women and children easier than ever before. They say that California harbors three of FBI’s most significant child sex trafficking areas in the nation-Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego-and that sex trafficking is growing.

To discourage and reign in human trafficking, and hold offenders accountable, supporters argue that we need the additional punishments in Prop. 35 and the training for law enforcement.

Supporters of Proposition 35


  • Chris Kelly, former chief of privacy at Facebook
  • California Democratic Party
  • California Against Slavery
  • California Republican Party
  • Safer California Foundation
  • Many law enforcement organizations

Largest Donors to the Yes Campaign As of October 1, 2012

  • Chris Kelly: $2,060,000
  • Police Officers Research Association: $162,459
  • Crowley Children’s Fund: $21,500
  • Karen Yee: $10,374
  • Daphne Phung: $10,060

Arguments Against Proposition 35

Opponents of Prop. 35 say it will create the illusion of having fixed the problem when in fact it addresses the part of the problem where there is the least need. They argue that the best way to prevent human trafficking is a comprehensive approach that puts more emphasis on keeping kids from winding up trafficked rather than trying to find and punish offenders.

Opponents also argue that Prop. 35 will spill over into entirely voluntary sex trade as well. They say that anyone participating in the widespread practice of consensual prostitution among adults could, under Prop. 35, be prosecuted as a human trafficker and punished as a sex offender. They argue that if consensual adult prostitution was legal, open and above board, there would be far less exploitation and trafficking.

Opponents of Proposition 35

Website: There is no organized campaign against Prop. 35.

  • Exotic Service Providers Legal Education and Research Project
  • Perla Flores, a program manager at Community Solutions
  • Bernal Heights Democratic Club
  • Norma Jean Almodovar, a former police officer who has worked in the sex trade.
  • Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club
  • California Association for Criminal Justice
  • Starchild
  • California Council of Churches
  • Peace and Freedom Party
  • Cindy Liou, staff attorney at Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach
  • San Francisco Rising

Largest Donors to No Campaign as of October 1, 2013

  • None

Discussion of Proposition 35

The supporters of Prop. 35 make a simple argument. Sex trafficking is involuntary, horrible, and it is happening, so let’s increase the punishment for it and put more resources into catching offenders. And it does address a bit of a gap in the law since while one would think involuntary sex trafficking would involve either kidnapping or sex with a minor, trafficking actually tends to involve manipulating minors into prostitution. As a result, proving that anyone other than the person who has sex with the minor actually broke the law is difficult. This makes it difficult to punish the enterprise of trafficking effectively.

It would makes sense to focus law enforcement on involuntary sex trade, especially involving children. Even more so if resources are diverted from consensual, victimless crimes like consensual adult prostitution, or possession of pot. Think of all the cops that would be freed up to look into child prostitution if they weren’t trying to shame johns and catch prostitutes.

It is unfortunate that Prop. 35 uses the sex offender registry so casually as a punishment. Most people think that registered sex offenders are dangerous sexual predators that require the extra supervision and transparency the sex offender registry provides. But what they don’t know is that many harmless offenses are included as sex offenses in California law as well. For example an adult couple caught having sex in their car on Lover’s Lane and cited with public indecency are required to register as sex offenders. Prop. 35 may lead to many people who engage in consensual adult prostitution being added to the sex offender registry, making it harder and harder to use that tool to track truly dangerous sexual criminals.


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