Individuals forced into prostitution as victims of human trafficking can take steps to clear their record of those offenses, under a bill ceremonially signed today by Gov. Steve Beshear.
Senate Bill 184, sponsored by Sen. Morgan McGarvey of Louisville, allows individuals to seek expungement of non-violent offenses that are the result of being a victim of human trafficking. The measure, signed at the Louisville Metro Police Department headquarters, passed unanimously in both the House and Senate during this year's legislative session.
"It's important that we recognize those traumatized by human trafficking as victims of a crime, not as criminals themselves," Gov. Beshear said. "I want to commend Sen. McGarvey for this thoughtful, common sense law that seeks to remedy just one of the tragic consequences that victims of human trafficking face."
"This measure allows these victims to move on with their lives, to go on and hopefully lead constructive lives," Sen. McGarvey said. "Basically, it acknowledges them as victims and makes it possible for them to rebuild their lives without a criminal record following them."
The law specifies that documentation from a federal, state, local or tribal governmental agency indicating the individual was the victim of human trafficking at the time of the offense creates a presumption that his or her participation was a direct result of being a victim. The individual can file to have the records of the offense expunged once 60 days have passed after final judgment is entered.
Rep. Sannie Overly, of Paris, sponsored legislation last year to increase protections for victims of human trafficking. "I'm proud to have worked with Sen. McGarvey and helped lead this important legislation through the Kentucky House of Representatives. It is another piece in the fight against human trafficking in Kentucky," she said. "By giving victims tools to throw off the impacts and stigma of being trafficked, we will be giving these vulnerable citizens another chance to return to normal life, and sending them the message that we do care about them and their future."
"This law will be an important tool for our human trafficking investigations," said Chief Steve Conrad of the Louisville Metro Police Department. "Victims will hopefully be more forthcoming knowing they have protection from certain transgressions."
Human rights representatives indicate that human trafficking is a growing problem in the Commonwealth. From June 26, 2013, when Kentucky's Human Trafficking Victims Rights Act went into effect, until Oct. 18, 2013, the Department of Community Based Services received 20 reports concerning 25 child victims of suspected human trafficking.