On August 27th, Illinois’s Governor, J.B. Pritzker, signed into law Senate Bill 2136, now Public Law 102-0639, which provides that Illinois law enforcement agencies shall expunge all criminal history records for felony prostitution convictions, creates a timeline for automatic expungement of records, and allows any individual or State’s attorney the opportunity to file a motion to vacate and expunge prior convictions for prior felony prostitution convictions.
In considering motions to vacate and expunge, the court may consider potential reasons to retain records provided by law enforcement, the petitioner’s age, the petitioner’s age at the time of the offense, the time since the conviction, and the specific adverse consequences if the motion is denied. Of special note, is how Illinois’s new law even grants State’s Attorneys the standing to take action and file motions to vacate and expunge a conviction for past felony prostitution convictions on behalf of their constituents.
Additionally, this new law goes above and beyond Illinois’s other vacatur remedy for sex trafficking survivors, which may be granted so long as the petitioner can establish their victimization, which requires the petitioner to endure a lengthy process uncovering their past victimization and trauma in order to draft the motion, along with other types of evidence that could hinge on the survivor’s trafficker being charged with a trafficking offense. As it now stands, the vacatur and expungement remedy in Illinois will grant automatic expungements for past felony prostitution convictions and will consider motions for non-felony prostitution convictions.
The CSE Institute commends Illinois for furthering its vacatur and expungement remedy to extend to those whose records are burdened by a felony prostitution conviction, which reflects Illinois’s past abolishment of felony prostitution in 2013. However, the CSE Institute encourages Illinois to remove all potential charges for prostitution convictions, for it still punishes “[a]ny person who knowingly performs, offers or agrees to perform any act of sexual penetration…for anything of value” as a Class A Misdemeanor.
Moreover, the CSE Institute encourages all states, including Pennsylvania, to allow the State’s Attorneys to motion the court on behalf of another for vacatur and expungement. This process allows State’s Attorneys to be on the forefront of rectifying this egregious issue that permeates the lives of many survivors – some of whom cannot establish past victimization or cannot suffer further traumatization by reliving that experience. Such a process allows those defending the tenets of the law to use it for the good of their communities and constituents.