May 24, 2021
The New York State Senate passed the Survivors of Trafficking Attaining Relief Together (START) Act (S.674/A.459), which would provide greater protections for survivors of human trafficking by allowing them to clear convictions related to their exploitation, known as vacatur. Currently, survivors of trafficking can only petition the court to clear convictions for prostitution but not other offenses their traffickers forced them to commit. The START Act now awaits the Governor’s signature. It had previously passed the New York State Assembly five times.
The START Act is vital legislation as a criminal record imposes life-long, detrimental effects, including limiting access to employment and educational opportunities, financial resources, and housing. A criminal record can also result in severe immigration consequences, including the threat of deportation and the inability to adjust immigration status or become a citizen. Over 100 organizations, including groups that advocate for racial justice, gender justice, immigation justice, survivors of violence, and LGBTQ+ rights, signed a letter of support for the START Act.
Decriminalize Sex Work is one of nearly twenty anti-trafficking organizations that comprise the START Coalition, a group of attorneys, social workers, and advocates who work directly with and on behalf of criminalized survivors of human trafficking. The Coalition, which is part of the New York Anti-Trafficking Network (NYATN), worked tirelessly for over five years to make the START Act law.
“This expansion is a true win for survivors, who should not be burdened with lifelong criminal records due to crimes they were forced to commit at the hands of their traffickers,” said DSW’s legal director, Melissa Broudo. Broudo filed and won the nation’s first ever vacatur motion in NY in 2010 and has since advised attorneys and legislators throughout the state and nation on vacatur.