Legislation

TVPJA bigTrafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act (TVPJA)

(A.2240/S.2135)

Primary Sponsors: Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (D-88) & and Senator Andrew Lanza (R-24)

This bill would improve New York State’s efforts to end human trafficking by enhancing protection for trafficking victims, including sexually exploited children, and increasing accountability for buyers and traffickers who fuel the commercial sex industry. This bill creates the felony sex offense of “aggravated patronizing of a minor” which would carry the same penalty as statutory rape. The bill would also bring New York State law in line with the federal sex trafficking law by removing New York’s requirement of coercion in prosecutions for the sex trafficking of minors. Importantly, the bill also takes into consideration how traffickers are changing the way they operate to escape prosecution. For instance, this bill includes a set of provisions that close loopholes in the existing law such as ensuring that livery and limousine drivers who transport people for the purposes of prostitution can be prosecuted for their crimes.  The bill also eliminates the stigmatizing and biased use of the term “prostitute” in the New York criminal code and replaces it with “person for prostitution.” Additionally, the bill will ensure that trafficked 16-and 17-year olds receive services and shelter instead of jail and convictions. Learn more

You can Take Action! 

Educate yourself about TVPJA – learn more here

Then, get in touch with your State Senator and State Assembly Member and tell them that combating human trafficking is important to you and ask them to support the bill. If they’ve already signed on, thank them for their support. Also spread the word about this important bill to others!
Read More: Amy Paulin Press Release | Text of Bill

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City Council passes Taxi Sex-Trafficking Law

The bill, which the City Council passed unanimously this month, imposes a $10,000 fine and automatic license revocation for any TLC-licensed driver or owner who is convicted of a felony related to sex trafficking, provided the perpetrator used a TLC-licensed vehicle to commit the crime.

via Michael Howard Saul at Metropolis

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Flagship Legislation: NYS Makes Trafficking a Crime

Law Punishes Prostituted Women but not Johns in School Zones

Bill 1313-B sponsored by Senators Eric Adams, Ruben Diaz, Carl Kruger, and John L. Sampson, was signed into law on July 20, 2011 by Governer Cuomo. Under this bill, there will be harsher punishments for prostitutes caught working in a school zone. Unbelievably, a key part of this bill which would have created a stronger punishment for the johns involved  was stripped away in negotiations. Making matters worse, the pimps are virtually let off the hook because the standard to prove their guilt is higher than those being prostituted. As a response to this, Governer Cuomo has filed a memorandum along with his bill approval writing, “I therefore urge the Legislature to enact similar enhanced penalties for patronizing a prostitute within a school zone, in order to protect our children”. The best response would have been to just not sign it.

Governor Andrew Cuomo                                                                               July 19, 2011
Executive Chambers
State Capitol
Albany, New York 12224
Re: Opposition to A.02264B/S.1313-B

 Honorable Governor Cuomo:

The New York State Anti-Trafficking Coalition, a network of 85 advocacy and direct service providers in New York, urgently asks you not to sign A.02264B/S.1313-B. This bill represents a regressive policy that undermines the goals of New York State’s 2007 anti-trafficking law and does little to protect our children.

This bill originally sought to increase the criminal penalties for all relevant parties – the prostituted, the buyer and the promoter (pimp) – of commercial sex acts that are committed within 1,000 feet of a school. This bill has been stripped of any reference to the buyers of commercial sex, who create and sustain the sex trade industry. It also does nothing to hold promoters (pimps) accountable; precisely the individuals who direct what corners will be used for solicitation. Instead the entire onus falls on girls and women in prostitution, the most vulnerable and the least in control of the commercial sexual transactions.

  1. Lets buyers of commercial sex who drive demand off the hook.  An earlier version of the bill created a heightened penalty for not only the people soliciting prostitution, but those who patronize prostitution, but it was inexplicably stricken from the version passed by the Legislature. New York law recognizes that buyers of sex—known as johns—are criminals (NY Penal Law §§ 230.04–230.06).  The demand for prostitution creates the economic incentive for sex trafficking. In fact, the 2007 State anti-trafficking law increased the penalty for patronizing prostitution from a B Misdemeanor to an A Misdemeanor in an effort to recognize the buyer’s role in creating and sustaining the sex trade industry. As currently revised, A.02264B/S.1313-B would undermine the advances New York State has made toward ending the commercial sex trade.
  2. Creates a loophole for pimps operating in a school zone.  In an unprecedented amending of New York’s Penal Code, this bill would provide that, for pimps only, prosecutors would have to prove actual knowledge of the penal law. Incredibly, the prostituted person would face tougher penalties for knowing they are near a school, but pimps would have to know about this legislation.  They would have to know that there’s a different level charge for promoting prostitution near a school, above and beyond, the existing penalties for promoting. Under this bill, a pimp could claim ignorance of the statute and escape punishment. Why is the Legislature bending over backwards to ensure buyers and pimps are not held accountable under the law?
  3. This bill fails to recognize that the vast majority of people in prostitution are not there by choice.  The link between prostitution and sex trafficking is well-documented.  Very few people, given a meaningful choice, willingly subject themselves to violent acts of sexual abuse multiple times per day.  People in prostitution are usually women and children with histories of sexual abuse and under the power and control of pimps. Indeed the average age of entry into prostitution is 13, and experts estimate that approximately 70 percent of people in prostitution have histories of sexual abuse in childhood. Raising criminal penalties against these victims only serves to exacerbate the pimps’ power over them.  Because the vast majority of prostituted people do not affirmatively choose prostitution, subjecting them to increased criminal penalties will have little if any deterrent effect and will not serve to protect children from exposure to commercial sex.

In the face of a legitimate public demand to protect schoolchildren from the effects of prostitution, the one-dimensional approach of this legislation is utterly ineffective. If we are serious about minimizing prostitution in our neighborhoods, we’re going to have to create real disincentives for the buyers and the pimps, rather than a nod from our leaders in Albany that prowling for prostitution near schools is tolerated.
For these reasons, NYSATC urges you to reject A.02264B/S.1313-B. Instead, we respectfully ask you to urge the Assembly and Senate to amend the bill to reflect the progressive values of New York State by punishing the perpetrators of commercial sexual exploitation—pimps and johns—and not victims.

Thank you for your time and attention to this important matter.

The Steering Committee of the NYSATC,

Taina Bien-Aime, Equality Now
Catherine Douglass, inMotion
Christine Fecko, My Sister’s Place
Dorchen Leidtholdt, Sanctuary For Families
Rachel Lloyd, GEMS
Sonia Ossorio, National Organization for Women
Norma Ramos, Coalition Against Trafficking in Women
Carol Smolenski, ECPAT-USA

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Law Passed Vacating Records of Trafficked Individuals

In 2010, this bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Richard N. Gottfried and Senator Thomas K. Duane writes into law the possibility for a new life for a sex trafficking survivor.  It is predicated on the idea that a person who is forced into sexual slavery should not be further victimized with a criminal record. The new law will help victims of sex trafficking who have been convicted of prostitution to have the unfair charges against them removed. News Story Below:

New York Law Journal

Judge Vacates Prostitution Convictions of Sex Victim
Andrew Keshner
07-18-2011
A state judge has vacated a sex trafficking victim’s 86 prostitution-related convictions. Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Lynn R. Kotler vacated Silvia Gonzalez’s convictions for either prostitution or loitering for the purpose of engaging in a prostitution offense, citing a 2010 amendment to Criminal Procedure Law §440, which permits such vacaturs when the defendant is shown to be a sex trafficking victim.
According to the ruling in People v. Gonzalez, 93N022568, Ms. Gonzalez was blackmailed into prostitution from about 1993 to 1995 by a woman identified as Marisol. Ms. Gonzalez turned over her immigration documents when Marisol promised she could help Ms. Gonzalez with her status. Ms. Gonzalez retrieved her documents after her last arrest in June 1995. She now lives with her mother and works as a house cleaner. Her current immigration status is unclear, the decision notes.
Judge Kotler made her July 11 ruling following a May 11 hearing where Ms. Gonzalez was the only person to testify. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office opposed the vacatur, objecting to a lack of corroboration in Ms. Gonzalez’s story. Prosecutors warned in court papers that granting the motion would “open the flood gates” to others claiming they were trafficking victims without independent confirmation. But Judge Kotler called that arguments “dogmatic and unpersuasive,” saying the amendment gave her the discretion to approve the motions.

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Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Youth

In 2008Governor Paterson signed the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Youth Act,sponsored by Assembly Member William Scarborough and Senator Dale Volker, into law. The law forces the family court system to recognize underage girls and boys who are caught in prostitution as victims and would create specialized services and housing for them.We advocated for a policy that would address the ways in which these kids were criminalized and further victimized by a system that lacked the ability to help them effectively. Instead of providing adequate services- including emergency short-term and long-term housing, counseling, support, medical care, and education- these victims were funneled into juvenile detention programs and youth prisons that failed to address their specialized needs.

The Safe Harbor Act was scheduled to go into effect on April 1, 2010, but the state of the economy and the New York State budget crisis has put the funding necessary to make Safe Harbor a success at risk.
The good news for the bill is that training is already under way in the family courts that deal with these cases, and emergency shelter is being put into place within existing shelters. The downside is that a lot more is going to need to be done, especially to establish the long-term housing and the training of police, nurses, judges, attorneys, and advocates that are necessary to make this program effective.

NYS Anti-Trafficking Coalition commends the leadership of Rachel Lloyd and the GEMS Team in advocating for the Safe Harbor Act.

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NYS Anti-Trafficking Law

After lobbying for a strong, comprehensive anti-trafficking law for two consecutive years, the New York State Anti-Trafficking coalition helped pass New York State’s Anti-Human Trafficking Law in 2007. This law addressed many of the components we were seeking: a comprehensive definition of trafficking; tough penalties for traffickers; comprehensive services for victims; clearer laws on sex tourism operations; and increased penalties for patronizing prostitution from a B to an A misdemeanor. Sex trafficking is now a class B felony and labor trafficking is now a class D felony.

How well the new state law will actually combat trafficking depends on the financial and intellectual resources that are put behind it. A new law on the books doesn’t automatically translate into district attorneys seeking indictments. Despite the staggering number of victims of human trafficking, there have  been very few convictions under the new statute since the law went into effect in November of 2007. To read more about the first conviction under this law go here.  District attorneys need to make this a priority and seek indictments. Judges and prosecutors need training on how to apply the new statute. The NYPD needs to take human trafficking seriously; officers need to be trained on how to identify victims, build cases, and aggressively go after buyers who create and sustain demand. Service providers need funds for shelter, legal assistance, healthcare, and psychological therapy to assist victims.

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