Sacramento – State Senator Brian Jones (R-Santee) announced today he is coauthoring two bipartisan measures by Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno), aimed at assisting the victims of human trafficking.
Human trafficking is defined by the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as: “the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.” The victims are often children and frequently are runaways or missing youth. All-too-often, these vulnerable young people, whose average age is 15 years old, are away from home for the first time. They can become easy prey for dangerous pedophiles, pimps, recruiters, and enforcers. Sadly, one in seven runaways are likely to become a sex trafficking victim.
After being rescued or escaping from their captors, human trafficking victims face a multitude of obstacles in trying to get their own life back. Some of these challenges involve the victim trying to clear their name and record for non-violent offenses they were forced to participate in while under the control of their captor. Clearing their record allows victims to remove hindrances to them such as seeking employment or volunteering at their child’s school.
“Once out of the confines of human trafficking, many victims still face ongoing struggles to regain real freedom and control of their lives,” stated Senator Jones. “We need to make court procedures more friendly to human trafficking victims that are trying to get a fresh start for themselves and their families.”
Specifically, the legislation coauthored by Jones does the following:
Assembly Bill 2868 allows a human trafficking victim to petition the court to vacate a conviction without having to first pay all fines and fees, and serve probation, associated with the offense. Under current law, courts can refuse to even consider a victim’s petition until all fines, fees, and probation terms are met. Sometimes these requirements are so costly a victim is never able to get out from under them.
Assembly Bill 2869 provides that a human trafficking victim may petition the court to vacate a conviction without having to appear in court in person. Under current law the victim, who may fear for their safety or may have moved out of the country, still must appear in court in person. AB 2869 allows a court to accept a victim’s testimony through electronic means such a video-conference or over the phone. AB 2869 also removes all time limits within which a victim is currently required to petition the court to vacate their conviction.
Both AB 2868 and 2869 have several Democrat and Republican coauthors and are awaiting referral to policy committee.