FRANKFORT – A 4-month-old state law that allows victims of human trafficking forced into prostitution to clear their criminal records was recognized this week as model legislation.
The Council of State Governments (CSG) added Senate Bill 184 to its annual list of suggested legislation for the rest of the nation.
“This measure allows people who are trafficked to move on and hopefully lead constructive lives,” said bill co-sponsor Sen. Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville. “It acknowledges them as victims and makes it possible for them to rebuild their lives without a criminal record following them.”
The measure passed unanimously in both the House and Senate during this year’s legislative session. Governor Steve Beshear signed it into law during a ceremony at the Louisville Metro Police Department headquarters.
The law allows individuals to seek expungement of non-violent offenses that are the result of being a victim of human trafficking. The measure 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.
Human rights representatives indicate that human trafficking is a growing problem in the commonwealth. While there has been no systematic evaluation of the number of victims of human trafficking in Kentucky, a 2013 survey sponsored by the University of Kentucky identified 44 children who were trafficked for sex. The same survey found 16 state and two federal indictments in Kentucky alleging sex trafficking of minors.
Trafficking of youth in commercial sex occurs in metropolitan and rural communities across Kentucky, according to the survey. About half of the professionals who work with at-risk youth, crime victims and offenders in Kentucky report encountering definite or suspected youth victims of sex trafficking.
The legislation was chosen to be recognized by a special committee of CSG that meets at least twice a year. The committee reviews about 80 pieces of legislation per meeting, voting to include an average of 30 to 40 bills in its yearly volume of suggested model legislation.
The Lexington-based CSG characterizes itself as a region-based forum that fosters the exchange of insights and ideas to help state officials shape public policy.