NYS Legislature Passes Bipartisan Bill to Protect Child Trafficking Victims
by Debra Brown Steinberg
On June 21, 2013, the New York legislature passed a bipartisan bill (A08071-A, S05839-A)1 authorizing criminal court judges to treat sixteen- and seventeen-year-old sexually exploited children as victims in need of services, rather than prosecuting them as adults on prostitution-related charges. Although the legislation stops short of prohibiting the charging or prosecution of these prostituted children, it nevertheless provides a mechanism within the criminal justice system for treating them as victims, for expunging “[a]ny adverse findings and all records of the [criminal court] investigation and proceedings relating to such charge[s],” and for offering them the same services that younger children arrested on prostitution-related charges currently receive in Family Court proceedings.2 Governor Cuomo has not yet signed the bill into law.
The legislation would authorize a criminal court judge, at any stage of a case charging a sixteen- or seventeen-year-old with a prostitution-related offense, to “convert [on consent] such charge and retain it as a person in need of supervision [PINS] proceeding for all purposes” and “to grant [the defendant] any relief available under [the PINS provisions] of the Family Court Act.”3 In the event that the defendant does not consent to a PINS proceeding, and a conviction or plea of guilty results, then “the court must find that the person is a youthful offender… .”4 Any adverse findings and all records of investigations or proceedings in cases charging sixteen- or seventeen-year-olds with prostitution-related offenses must be “promptly expunged upon the person’s eighteenth birthday or the conclusion of the proceedings on the charge before the court, whichever occurs later.”5
This bill is an important step in the right direction, and we urge Governor Cuomo to sign it into law. We applaud the partnership of committed frontline advocates led by the New York State Anti-Trafficking Coalition, its member organizations, and the New York Center for Juvenile Justice; New Yorkers across the State, who called on their elected representatives to protect child trafficking victims; and the contributors to VS., who joined us in carrying the message to Albany. We stand together in calling on Albany to pass additional reforms, proposed by Governor Cuomo, which will position New York as a model jurisdiction in the national campaign against human trafficking.
New York State Bill Numbers A08071-A/S05839-A, entitled “An act to amend the criminal procedure law, in relation to the treatment of certain juveniles for certain prostitution offenses,” available at http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?term=2013&bn=A08071 and http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?term=2013&bn=S05839. ↩