ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The New York State legislature passed a bill this session that would assist victims of trafficking. It would allow them to get convictions resulting from their trafficking vacated through judicial review.
Letters have been sent to Governor Andrew Cuomo from human trafficking survivors and advocacy organizations urging him to sign the Survivors of Trafficking Attaining Relief Together, or START Act. It was first reported by POLITICO New York. Supporters say it would expand on a law that went into effect more than a decade ago, allowing victims of sex trafficking, convicted of prostitution-related offenses resulting from trafficking, to apply to court to get those convictions vacated.
START would be broader.
“That allows labor trafficking survivors to vacate convictions and move on with their lives, and it also allows sex trafficking survivors that have other convictions related to their trafficking to move forward with their lives,” said Abigail Swenstein, Criminal Defense Practice Staff Attorney.
Under the law, survivors could petition the court to clear any offense resulting from their trafficking. A judge would then review evidence.
“It also ensures that all of the documents filed on these cases are kept confidential, and it clarifies that a survivor of trafficking does not need to show that they’ve been rehabilitated but that they never should have been convicted in the first place,” Swenstein said.
The approval of the bill in the legislature was pretty much a party line vote, with Democrats supporting the measure and Republicans voting against it. In response to criticisms, advocates argue that vacating convictions would not be automatic.
“This is a victim’s rights bill that gives judges more authority. This is not a get out of jail free card. It doesn’t impact ongoing cases even,” said Swenstein.
The bill was passed by the legislature in May but has yet to be delivered to the Governor.