MADISON — Several state legislators are reviving a bill that, if enacted as law, would impose a $5,000 fine on anyone convicted of soliciting a prostitute.
Senate Bill 442 — which was first introduced by state Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, and Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, in 2017 — would impose a $5,000 fine on anyone “convicted of patronizing or soliciting prostitutes, pandering or keeping a place of prostitution,” the bill states.
The money collected would be used for treatment and services for sex-trafficking victims and for criminal investigative operations and law enforcement relating to internet crimes against children. The measure did not get a floor vote in the Senate or Assembly last session.
Wanggaard and Taylor, along with state Sen. Andre Jacque, R-De Pere; and state Rep. Janel Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls; announced Jan. 30 that they would circulate the bill for co-sponsors this legislative term.
The state Justice Department fiscal estimate attached to that bill projected the surcharge would be imposed on 300 convictions annually and generate $1.1 million.
Racine County District Attorney Tricia Hansen says that the proposed bill may not affect Racine County, as the DA’s Office has not been charging the statute referenced in the bill since 2015.
“We are more likely to investigate and charge (statute) 940.302, which is human trafficking,” Hanson said. “All of the charges referenced in the bill are misdemeanors, and for us to even be able to detect that misdemeanor prostitution is happening, it requires undercover work. The local departments are more focused on using the resources they have to root out the human trafficking.”
The Racine Police Department has an active Human Trafficking Task Force, which was formed in 2013. As of July 2017, the task force had participated in 10 to 12 operations and rescued nearly 200 human trafficking victims locally since late 2013.
Hanson said that the bill also requires that the surcharge funds to be sent back to the state for investigative efforts, which would not necessarily benefit local anti-trafficking efforts.
“I am not sure from the language if that means money would come back to the counties — or particularly Racine County — for use in investigations here, so I cannot say if it would benefit us at all,” Hanson said.
“All of the charges referenced in the bill are misdemeanors, and for us to even be able to detect that misdemeanor prostitution is happening, it requires undercover work. The local departments are more focused on using the resources they have to root out the human trafficking.” Tricia Hanson, Racine County district attorney