Rights Restoration for Sex Trafficking Survivors
An Arizona citizen convicted of prostitution before July 24, 2014 may be eligible to have their rights restored if there is evidence that the person's offense was a result of sex trafficking.
Victims and survivors of sex trafficking convicted of prostitution who can show that the conviction was a result of sex trafficking are eligible to petition the court for restoration of their rights as part of Arizona’s vacatur law.
Arizona is one of forty-one states in the country to have what is known as a vacatur law. Criminal record relief legislation can take many different forms: set aside, expungement, sealing of records, and vacatur of records, among others. Vacatur of records refers to the removal of a previous conviction from a person’s record. While vacatur laws vary by state, Arizona’s vacatur law is specific to serving survivors or victims of sex trafficking who were wrongly convicted of prostitution.
Under Arizona Revised Statute §13-909, a person who was convicted of prostitution, or violates a city or town ordinance with similar elements, prior to July 24, 2014, who was being trafficked at the time of arrest may apply to have their conviction vacated.
Many survivors of sex trafficking are wrongly misidentified as criminals and convicted of prostitution, and for some that means the establishment of a criminal record. Criminal records impact a person’s access to housing, job opportunities, and, if a felony conviction, a person’s civil liberties. Arizona’s vacatur law was passed with the goal of helping victims and survivors of sex trafficking, who have lost their civil rights because of being trafficked, vacate the conviction from their record and restore their rights.
A vacated conviction releases a person from all consequences associated with the prostitution conviction. Once a person has successfully vacated an unjust prostitution conviction, they are then able to state that they have never been arrested for, charged with, or convicted of the prostitution crime vacated in response to questions for employment, housing, financial aid, or loan applications.
Helpful Information for Sex Trafficking Survivors
Many sex trafficked victims/survivors may not know that they have been trafficked, or that the abuse they are experiencing is illegal. Traffickers thrive on misinformation and work hard to convince their victims that they are to blame for their abuse. This is a primary reason why victims/survivors do not tell law enforcement or do not come forward to explore clearing their record; they have been convinced they are at fault for the abuse they have experienced.
If you are or have been abused, it is important to know it is not your fault.
If you, or someone you know, has engaged in the sale of sex and any of these elements were part of that situation, then you may be able to access Arizona’s vacatur law as a victim of human trafficking:
- If someone used violence or the threat of violence against you, or someone you love, as a means of forcing you to sell sex.
- If someone else profited partially or totally from the sale of sex (it’s still trafficking if you turn your money over and someone gives you an allowance from that money or you use that money to pay for your room, food, clothing, etc. If you did not get to keep it, it was not yours).
- If someone is using pictures or video of you to blackmail you into selling sex.
- If someone has taken your documentation or IDs and will not let allow you access unless you sell sex.
- If someone has forced you to use drugs in selling sex or has used your struggle with drug addiction to convince you to sell sex in exchange for drugs.
- If someone monitors where you are all or most times, controls where you go, who you talk to and what you say.
- If someone has promised love and protection for you in exchange for selling sex (if someone tells you that the only way you can stay together is if you help out with the bills and sell sex, it counts).
- If someone is threatening to call the police, and have you charged with a crime or is threatening to have you deported unless you sell sex.
For more information on Arizona’s Vacatur Law, please contact the resources below.
- The Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence (ACESDV)
The Sexual & Domestic Violence Services Helpline
- Open Monday – Friday, 8:30AM – 5:00PM
- Phone: (602) 279-2980
- Text: (520) 720-3383
- The National Trafficking Helpline
- Open 24/7
- Phone: 1(888) 373-7888
- Text: "HELP" or "INFO" to 233-733
ARS §13-1307 defines sex trafficking as intending to cause another "person to engage in any prostitution or sexually explicit performance by deception, force or coercion" or having knowledge that another person is engaging in these activities through force, fraud or coercion.
The definitions for coercion, force, sexually explicit performance, and traffic, based on
ARS § 13-1307, are below.
- "Coercion" includes:
- Abusing or threatening to abuse the law or the legal system.
- Knowingly destroying, concealing, removing, confiscating, possessing or withholding another person’s actual or purported passport or other immigration document, government issued identification document, government record or personal property.
- Causing or threatening to cause financial harm to any person.
- Facilitating or controlling another person’s access to a controlled substance.
- "Force" includes causing or threatening to cause serious harm to another person or physically restraining or threatening to physically restrain another person.
- "Sexually explicit performance" means a live or public act or show intended to arouse or satisfy the sexual desires or appeal to the prurient interest of patrons.
- "Traffic" means to entice, recruit, harbor, provide, transport or otherwise obtain another person.
- Any individual under 18 engaging in the sale of sex is also a trafficking victim. Minors cannot consent to selling sex and adults who buy from minors are participating in their trafficking.
To restore your rights under Arizona’s vacatur law, all the following must be true:
- The conviction must have happened in the state of Arizona.
- The instance labeled as prostitution must have occurred on or before July 24, 2014.
It is important to note that Arizona vacatur law only allows for the vacatur of a prostitution conviction and not any other convictions, even if they are associated with the trafficking victimization.