A provision in the N.C. Senate’s anti-human trafficking bill, recently passed and signed into law, allows more human trafficking victims to collect compensation under the Crime Victims Compensation Act.

Victims can now be compensated if crimes they committed while being trafficked were “contributory misconduct under duress.” The Crime Victims Compensation Act previously prohibited victims from receiving compensation if they were participating in a felony at the time.

According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, North Carolina ranks 12th in the nation for incidents of human trafficking with nearly 25% of the cases reported involving minors.

Unanimously approved by both chambers of the N.C. General Assembly, Senate Bill 626’s compensation provision went into effect when Gov. Roy Cooper signed the bill on June 30.

SB 626 also adds language specific to human trafficking offenses to certain N.C. General Statutes provisions, and stiffens the penalties for rioting or inciting a riot. Those provisions in the bill go into effect August 1 and December 1, 2023.

All three of the legislation’s primary co-sponsors were Senate Republicans: W. Ted Alexander, R-Cleveland; Bobby Hanig, R-Currituck; and Lisa Barnes, R-Nash. The bill’s six other co-sponsors were also GOP members.

The act makes additions to N.C. General Statutes Chapter 50D starting on August 1, including allowing human trafficking victims to apply for and receive “permanent civil no-contact order[s]” against individuals found guilty of human trafficking offenses. Chapter 50D previously did not have any language specific to human trafficking victims.

Recommended by the North Carolina Human Trafficking Commission, the legislation also expands upon current language defining individuals guilty of sex trafficking offenses, adding people “who patronizes or solicits another person who would otherwise be a victim” of sex trafficking.

“The new law will help provide victims with much-needed protections,” Jennifer Haigwood, chair of the N.C. Human Trafficking Commission said in a statement after it passed the legislature.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline says North Carolina ranks among the top states for human trafficking occurrences. According to 2021 statistics, N.C. had 223 reported cases of human trafficking, behind California, Texas, Florida, New York, Michigan, Ohio, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, Washington, and Mississippi.

Established in 2013, the N.C. Human Trafficking Commission was created to combat human trafficking in the state through “funding and facilitating research; creating measurement, assessment, and accountability measures; informing and educating law enforcement personnel, social services providers, and the general public; suggesting new policies, procedures, and legislation; and developing regional response teams and identifying gaps in law enforcement or service provision and recommending solutions,” according to its website.

The N.C. Senate’s proposed budget released in April directs $20 million over two years to the N.C. Housing Trust Fund to provide shelter to human trafficking victims, among other groups.

The bill’s anti-riot clauses increase the severity of a felony for those participating in a riot, including for those who incite a riot that causes more than $2,500 in damage, or “is a contributing cause of a riot in which there is a death.” Those provisions become law on December 1.