Criminalizing the Victim: Ending Prosecution of Human Trafficking Victims

23 Pages Posted: 14 Feb 2019

See all articles by Jessica Aycock

Jessica Aycock

Texas Tech University School of Law

Date Written: February 1, 2019


States are falling short in addressing the human trafficking problem. States focus on punishing traffickers rather than restoring the lives of victims; however, to alleviate human trafficking, states must adopt more victim-centric statutes. This Comment argues that all states, specifically California, Texas, and Florida, should amend human trafficking statutes to provide more victim-centric relief by adopting two measures: affirmative defenses and vacatur statutes. An affirmative defense statute that provides victims a defense for a broader range of crimes committed as a direct result of being trafficked is necessary because convicting victims is not within the five theories of punishment. The ideal vacatur statute would (1) not be limited to prostitution or prostitution-related charges; (2) provide a due diligence time limit; (3) provide for both vacatur and expungement of the victim’s records; and (4) provide government agencies that come into contact with victims of human trafficking the power to promulgate regulations that requires law enforcement, nonprofits, or human trafficking safe houses to inform victims of their judicial protection options once rescued. States could implement this regulation by adopting victims assistance units in the state. Together, these amended statutes would provide victims with the ability to transition back into society successfully and prevent them from returning to their traffickers.

Keywords: human trafficking, human, trafficking, vacatur, vacate, affirmative defense, affirmative, criminal procedure, defense, statutes, Florida, Texas, California, victim-centric relief, punishing the victim, victim's assistance units, convicting victims

Suggested Citation

Aycock, Jessica, Criminalizing the Victim: Ending Prosecution of Human Trafficking Victims (February 1, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Jessica Aycock (Contact Author)

Texas Tech University School of Law ( email )

1802 Hartford Avenue
Lubbock, TX 79409
United States

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