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Relief for Human Trafficking Victims: Vacating Arrests and Convictions for Victims of Human Trafficking

Justice scales and judge gavel

Human trafficking is one of the deadliest crimes in America and involves transporting people and forcing them into work or service for the individuals own benefit. This is typically found in the form of forced labor or sexual exploitation. It is estimated that approximately 50,000 people are trafficked into the United States every year.

Victims of human trafficking are often forced or coerced into engaging in illicit activity. Due to this, California recently implemented Penal Code 236.14 which protects human trafficking victims by relieving them of any non-violent crimes that occurred while they were being trafficked.

Who is Eligible for Relief Under Penal Code 236.14?

While this Penal Code applies to both minors and adults, for a person to be eligible for relief under this law, they must meet a few requirements. The first requirement is being a victim of human trafficking. Under Penal Code Section 236.1(a)-(C), someone is the victim of human trafficking if another person:

  • Deprives or violates their personal liberty with the intent to obtain forced labor or services
  • Deprives or violates their personal liberty with the intent to effect or maintain a violation of prostitution, sexual exploitation, pornography, and extortion
  • Causes, induces, or persuades, or attempts to cause, induce, or persuade, a minor to engage in a commercial sex act, with the intent to effect or maintain a violation of prostitution, sexual exploitation, pornography, and extortion

The second requirement to qualify for this crime relief is that there must have been an arrest, conviction, or juvenile adjudication for a nonviolent crime. Non-violent crimes are considered drug, property, and public order offenses that do not involve a threat of harm, or an act of actual harm against a person. Additionally, it must be shown that the crime was committed during the trafficking, as well as under direct influence of the trafficking.

Filing for Relief Under Penal Code 236.14

First, a petition must be filed to the court under the penalty of perjury and the court requires it to be filed within a reasonable time after the offense. The petition must be served on the prosecuting agency with jurisdiction over the case, where there will be 45 days to file opposition. If no opposition is filed the petition is granted, but if there is an opposition then there will be a scheduled hearing. The hearing involves the petitioner giving their testimony and presenting any evidence they have, as well as any opposition evidence. Through the examination by the court, it will be decided if the petitioner has eligibility for relief.

Contact a Post-Conviction Lawyer Today

Being a victim of human trafficking is mentally and physically damaging. Many times, through these human trafficking incidents, the victims are forced to commit nonviolent crimes. The state of California hears the victims’ voices and wants to relieve them of these charges. The experienced attorneys at The Nieves Law Firm could help you get the care and relief you deserve. If you or a loved one has been charged with a non-violent crime while being a victim of human trafficking, call us today for a consultation.

Author Bio

Jo-Anna Nieves is the Founder and Managing Attorney of The Nieves Law Firm, an Oakland criminal defense law firm she created in 2012. With more than 11 years of experience in criminal defense, she has zealously represented clients in a wide range of legal matters, including DUIs, domestic violence, expungement, federal crimes, juvenile law, motions to vacate, sex crimes, violent crimes, and other criminal charges.

Jo-Anna received her Juris Doctor from the Florida State University College of Law and is a member of the State Bar of California. She has received numerous accolades for her work, including being named a Super Lawyer Rising Star the past 8 years, the #12 Fastest Growing Law Firm in the U.S. by Law Firm 500 in 2019, and one of the fastest growing companies in the U.S. by Inc 5000 in 2023.

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