Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and the Legal Aid Society’s Exploitation Intervention Project attorneys Leigh Latimer and Abigail Swenstein today urged prosecutors and defense attorneys across the state to work collaboratively to utilize the recently enacted START Act to ensure that survivors of human trafficking are not burdened with criminal records.
In a New York Daily News op-ed, the authors write that the “2021 state law gives judges wide discretion to free trafficking survivors from the burden of criminal records, and we have been working collaboratively to provide relief to as many survivors as possible. We urge our counterparts across the state to do the same.”
Recounting the experiences of three trafficking survivors that were reported in the Daily News, the authors state, “It’s clear to us that these women are not blameworthy for the crimes they committed. They should not bear the consequences of criminal convictions.”
Of note, not only has the Manhattan D.A.’s Office’s Human Trafficking Response Unit agreed to consent to every START Act motion made thus far, it is applying the same approach to new and current cases: “If someone is charged or indicted, but not convicted and the defense raises a credible claim that the accused person committed the alleged crime as a result of trafficking, prosecutors dismiss the case.”
They conclude, “Human trafficking survivors deserve a fair chance at a better life. We call on prosecutors across the state to fulfill the promise of the START Act by collaborating with the defense bar to assess who is eligible for this post-conviction relief; learning and employing trauma-centered interviewing techniques; and consenting to vacatur motions where investigations demonstrate that a conviction is a result of trafficking.”
Read the full op-ed here.