SB 0767 - Criminal Procedure - Human Trafficking - Vacatur and Expungement

SB 0767 - Criminal Procedure - Human Trafficking - Vacatur and Expungement

Position: Support wit h Amendment

Committee: Senate Judicial Proceedings

The Maryland Catholic Conference represents the public policy interests of the three Roman Catholic (arch)dioceses serving Maryland: the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington, which together encompass over one million Marylanders.

Senate Bill 767 with sponsor amendments would strengthen Maryland’s “vacating convictions” law by adding protections necessary to support survivor safety and confidentiality as well as provide guidance to the court on motions granted without a hearing. The Maryland Catholic Conference supports this bill because it will enhance the effectiveness of Maryland’s trafficking-specific criminal record relief law by improving privacy protections for survivors seeking to vacate their trafficking-related convictions, as well as clarifying judicial procedures relating to motions practice.

In addition to the abuse, coercive control and manipulation victims of trafficking routinely face, many victims are convicted of crimes they were forced to commit by their trafficker.  Data recently obtained from a national survey of both sex and labor trafficking survivors demonstrates the need for easily accessible criminal record relief, with 91% of survivors reported being arrested during the time they were being trafficked, the majority for crimes other than prostitution.[1] Of those surveyed, 73% reported barriers to employment because of their criminal records, while 58% reported barriers to accessing housing.[2] 

Maryland responded to this injustice in 2011, becoming just the second state in the country to enact a trafficking-specific criminal record relief law, which allowed survivors of sex trafficking to vacate, or, set aside their prostitution convictions. In 2020, the Maryland General Assembly passed the "True Freedom Act," a much-needed revision to the state’s vacatur law which significantly expanded the list of convictions that were eligible for vacatur and eliminated

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[1] National Survivor Network, National Survivor Network Members Survey: Impact of Criminal Arrest and Detention on Survivors of Human Trafficking (2016) https://mvlslaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/NSN-Survey-on-Impact-of-Criminalization-2017-Update.pdf.

[2] Id.