The following letter was submitted to the California Senate Appropriations Committee on August 9, 2021.

Senator Anthony J. Portantino, Chair
Senate Appropriations Committee
State Capitol, Room 2206
Sacramento, CA 95814

Re: Support for AB 262: Improving the Record Clearing Process for Victims of Human Trafficking

Dear Chairman Portantino,

I am writing on behalf of the International Institute of Los Angeles (IILA) to express support for AB 262 (Patterson), which will greatly improve the record clearing process for victims of human trafficking.

California has one of the highest rates for human trafficking within the United States. Once removed from trafficking, victims desire a fresh start on life and seek out secure housing, employment, counseling and involvement within their community. Unfortunately, many victims possess criminal records related to their victimization which can hinder this desire on numerous levels.

AB 262 will increase justice and healing for human trafficking survivors in several ways. First, AB 262 will prevent a court from refusing to hear a human trafficking victim’s petition to clear their record due to fines owed and/or probation requirements not met. Current law is interpreted as requiring that a victim of human trafficking must first pay all fines and meet probation requirements before petitioning the court to clear their nonviolent criminal record. Because there is room for interpretation within the code, some courts choose to waive fines and probation requirements, while others do not. This barrier stops victims from addressing one of the most vital issues preventing them from starting a new life: clearing their record.

Second, AB 262 will clarify that a victim can petition the court for vacatur relief at any point in time once the victim has been removed from trafficking, even twenty years down the road.

Third, AB 262 will also allow a victim of human trafficking to appear at all court hearings via counsel. Many victims have multiple offenses in multiple counties throughout California. Requiring a victim to travel to locations where they were trafficked makes the process of obtaining relief unduly burdensome, economically prohibitive, and retraumatizing for victims.

Fourth, AB 262 clarifies the code with regard to the agencies that must seal and destroy the victim’s records related to their citation, arrest, adjudication, and/or conviction and shortens the time period in which these agencies must seal and destroy the victim’s records.

Finally, AB 262 provides the court with clear guidelines on how to carry out the court order, mainly by providing a copy of the order to the agencies that must seal and destroy its records so that the agencies are aware that the court issued an order requiring the agency to take action to achieve compliance.

Clearing one’s record of crimes they committed directly as a result of their victimization is the first step towards a new life, and one that cannot be understated for victims trying to leave their traumatic past behind. AB 262 will clarify how and when a victim of human trafficking may petition for vacatur relief, and eases the process along the way. This in turn, allows survivors to receive the justice the court ordered – relief from their criminal record – so that they can move on with their lives, obtain housing, pursue their educational goals, find employment, enter the professional world, and become financially independent.

At International Institute of Los Angeles, we provide comprehensive and trauma-informed case management services to survivors of human trafficking and their families to help them reclaim and rebuild their lives. We are there to aid at every step in their journey from rescue to reintegration into their community. Our services include family reunification, legal aid, mental health counseling, coordination with law enforcement, and housing and employment assistance. AB 262 is critical in removing barriers our clients may face as they strive to restore their freedom, dignity, and independence and become fully self-sufficient.

For these reasons, the International Institute of Los Angeles supports AB 262 and respectfully ask for the committee’s support of the bill as well.

Sincerely,

Cambria Tortorelli
President and Chief Executive Officer