A bill that would allow former victims of sex trafficking the ability to expunge crimes from their record was passed in the Assembly last month. The bill would give the victims of sex trafficking a fresh start.
The bill (S.4429/ A.7670) sponsored by Sen. Thomas Duane, D-Manhattan, and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan, who chair their house’s health committees, was re-introduced into the Assembly in January after being passed last June. The bill is now in the Codes Committee in the Senate.
Sex trafficking is broadly defined under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, which is a federal act that defines sex trafficking and provides protection to victims of human trafficking. It is broadly defined due to the fact that it is hard to provide evidence proving someone is a victim of human trafficking.
The bill would allow individuals who have been convicted of prostitution or loitering for the purpose of engaging in prostitution to have the charges vacated from their records if they have been victims of sex trafficking.
The New York City Bar released a report last month that reviews and comments on the bill. The report expressed concern for the portion of the bill stating that in order for victims of sex trafficking to have their crimes vacated from their record, then they must provide documentation from a federal, state, or local government agency.
“I think if it is constructed narrowly then it will be difficult for individuals to take advantage [of this bill],” said Rachel Braunstein, the chair of the New York City Bar’s sex and law committee.
The Bar Association suggested the new bill provide language that would allow the official documentation used to show there was victimization be interpreted as broadly as possible.
Braunstein said the New York City Bar is interested in the bill because its members had done some work with the New York Penal Law of 2007, which is an appendix to the New York State Anti-Trafficking law.
According to the New York City Bar it is not unusual for victims of sex trafficking to be arrested and convicted of prostitution related offenses. After a victim has been convicted of such crimes it is hard for them to find housing, jobs and could inhibit their application for residency or citizenship.
In order to reintegrate into society, victims of sex trafficking need stable housing, work, and legal immigration status, according to the report. Without the ability to obtain that, the cycle of victimization could be perpetuated. Or even worse victims might fall prey to sex trafficking again.
The report also stated that this bill is the first of its kind in the nation.