Nebraska law gives trafficking victims the chance to have criminal records erased

A new law in Nebraska will help victims of sex trafficking clear their records of prostitution or other offenses that were a direct result of their being trafficked. The new statute applies to both convictions (crimes committed by adults) and adjudications (offenses committed by minors).

To have their records cleared, victims must provide evidence, such as phone records, online ads, sworn testimony or other documentation, that shows they were being trafficked at the time the offense occurred. If a court agrees, the conviction or adjudication will be vacated and the record expunged.
Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks says she sponsored the enacting legislation (LB 1132) to help sex trafficking victims eliminate the barriers to housing, employment and education that are often associated with having a criminal record. According to Pansing Brooks, one sex trafficking victim who testified in support of the bill revealed that she had been arrested 196 times.
In recent years, Pansing Brooks and other Nebraska lawmakers have taken a more aggressive approach to fighting human trafficking, enacting measures that increase penalties for traffickers and buyers, allow victims to sue their traffickers, and provide legal immunity for victims who are charged with prostitution.
“We realized that the majority of people we had been charging with prostitution were actually trafficking victims,” Pansing Brooks says. “That made me understand that we had been going after the wrong people.”
According to a 2016 survey done by the National Survivor Network, more than 90 percent of human trafficking victims had been arrested for crimes related to the trafficking. Victims reported being charged with prostitution, solicitation, drug possession and truancy, among other offenses.
Indiana lawmakers in 2017 passed legislation (HB 1218) to allow victims of human trafficking to have their convictions or adjudications for nonviolent offenses vacated if they can prove they were being trafficked at the time the offense occurred. In addition to Indiana and Nebraska, five other Midwestern states (see map) have laws that provide a path for sex trafficking victims to have offenses vacated. However, most of those laws only allow prostitution charges to be vacated.
Kansas law allows for trafficking victims to have adjudications and convictions expunged, but not vacated, meaning the record is sealed, but still exists.
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Stateline Midwest: May 20182.4 MB