Legal Aid Society


Op-Ed: What the Survivors of Human Trafficking Deserve

Leigh Latimer and Abigail Swenstein, attorneys with The Legal Aid Society’s Exploitation Intervention Project, joined Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg for a new op-ed in the New York Daily News which calls on prosecutors throughout the state to vacate convictions of trafficking survivors under New York State’s START Act.

Last November, Governor Hochul signed the Survivors of Trafficking Attaining Relief Together (START) Act, which allows survivors of sex and labor trafficking to clear or vacate criminal convictions for any crimes resulting from their victimization. Working together, Legal Aid and the DA’s office have already cleared 10 victims’ convictions with more pending. To date, the DA’s office has not objected to even one motion to vacate under the START act.

Legal Aid and the Manhattan DA are calling on others in the criminal legal system to follow their lead and give human trafficking survivors a “fair chance at a better life.”

“It’s clear to us that these women are not blameworthy for the crimes they committed. They should not bear the consequences of criminal convictions,” they write. “We call on prosecutors across the state to fulfill the promise of the START Act by collaborating with the defense bar to assess who is eligible for this post-conviction relief; learning and employing trauma-centered interviewing techniques; and consenting to vacatur motions where investigations demonstrate that a conviction is a result of trafficking.”

Read the full piece here.