Protecting Sex Trafficking Victims Through Expungement and Vacatur Statutes: Will Virginia Join the Rest of the Nation?
_ Regent J. Glob. Just. & Pub. Pol'y (2019)
12 Pages Posted: 27 Jun 2019 Last revised: 24 Jul 2019
Date Written: June 24, 2019
The Virginia General Assembly is making great headway in the fight against sex trafficking, and for that it should be commended. But it is lacking in one key area – enabling victims to expunge or vacate certain offenses from their criminal records. By the very nature and definition of the crime, sex trafficking victims are forced to engage in criminal activity. But rather than identify these individuals as victims in need of care, law enforcement often mistakenly processes them as criminals. With prostitution and related convictions on their records, sex trafficking survivors face significant barriers to obtaining housing, employment, public benefits, etc. Thankfully, there is a solution. Known as "criminal record relief laws," these laws enable sex trafficking victims to clear their criminal records of certain offenses that occurred as a result of their being trafficked. While the statutes vary significantly across the states with respect to procedure and substance, all but six states have passed some form of criminal record relief law. Virginia is one of those six states, and Virginia also lacks other key protections for victims like an affirmative defense to prosecutions for prostitution. The Virginia General Assembly must act now and pass a criminal record relief law to protect sex trafficking victims.
Keywords: Sex Trafficking, Human Trafficking, Expungement, Vacatur, Virginia, Human Rights
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