Federal law automatically assumes all minors involved in sex trafficking are victims. But like 18 other states, Ohio allows minors to be arrested and charged with prostitution.
And Ohio law makes it even more difficult to charge the traffickers. Prosecutors are forced to prove 16 and 17-year-olds were forced, coerced or tricked into commercial sex acts before being able to convict their trafficker.
Ohio Sen. Teresa Fedor, a Democrat from Toledo, has fought for years to close the loophole and hopes her latest bill to do that will pass in 2020. “Sixteen and 17-year-olds are left out as an outlier,” Fedor said. “Minors do not decide that they’re going to do these things.”
Ohio Attorney General David Yost agrees but still thinks prosecutors should be able to charge some minors with solicitation. “What I’ve seen in my career in the justice system that court involvement is a huge help and a way to help them recover,” Yost said.