Fedor and Kunze to Introduce Legislation Expanding Expungement for Human Trafficking Survivors
Today, state Senators Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) and Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard announced that they will soon introduce legislation to remove the predicate offenses required for a victim of human trafficking to qualify for the expungement of their criminal records in Ohio.
“Human trafficking survivors are often victimized for crimes they were forced to commit while being trafficked, which causes an incredible amount of trauma,” Fedor said. “Cutting off their pathway to expungement because they were not convicted of an offense outlined in current law is not only arbitrary, but unconscionable. This bipartisan, bicameral legislation will grant access to justice for countless survivors and give them the second chance they deserve.”
Under current law, victims of human trafficking must first be convicted of soliciting, loitering or prostitution before they can apply for expungement of their criminal records. This restrictive language excludes out-of-state convictions as qualifying offenses, creating uncertainty of whether convictions under local city or municipal laws allow a survivor to qualify for expungement. Current law also excludes survivors who were charged with a qualifying offense but not convicted, as well as victims of labor trafficking, who are often not charged with the required predicate offenses.
“The General Assembly has successfully passed important legislation over the last couple of years to fight human trafficking and help victims rebuild their lives,” Kunze said. “With that said, our work is far from over. I am pleased to join Senator Fedor as we continue our path forward.”
Representative Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) will soon introduce companion legislation in the Ohio House of Representatives.
“Today was an opportunity to provide information to Ohioans about ways to help their neighbors, family and other loved ones who are survivors of the horrific trauma of human trafficking,” Galonski said. “Through my decades long work to eradicate this scourge, I know that I must do more. As I continue to partner with the senators and other representatives, I am hopeful that we can help Ohio families to live better lives.”
The bill would ensure that only survivors of human trafficking will be able to take advantage of expanded eligibility for expungement. Courts will still be required to determine whether an applicant committed the crime as a result of their victimization.
“We have a shared goal: for survivors of human trafficking to be truly free,” said Sasha Naiman “Currently, Ohio’s law limits which survivors of human trafficking can access expungement. Because of that, many survivors can never escape the lifelong stigma of a criminal record that resulted from their victimization. This bill is a smart, simple solution, opening doors to employment, safe housing, family reunification and successful, healthy community integration. The bill allows our law to evolve, based on society’s growing understanding of human trafficking, by taking away expungement-barriers that are arbitrary, unnecessary, and harmful to the survivors who we are all trying to serve.”
This legislation was introduced in the 133rd General Assembly as an amendment to the operating budget, but was ultimately not included in the final bill.
Watch the full press conference here