Scranton, Pa

New Pennsylvania Law Can Help Trafficking Survivors Seek Justice

Posted: May 4, 2015

Pennsylvania’s recently enacted comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation, Act 105, includes a provision to vacate convictions resulting from the petitioner’s victimization.  18 Pa.C.S. 3018(d) provides the following relief:

(d) Motion to vacate conviction.–

(1)  An individual convicted under section 3503 (relating to criminal trespass), 5503 (relating to disorderly conduct), 5506 (relating to loitering and prowling at night time), 5507 (relating to obstructing highways and other public passages) or 5902 or an offense for simple possession of a controlled substance committed as a direct result of being a victim of human trafficking may file a motion to vacate the conviction.

(2)  In order to be considered, a motion under this subsection must:

(i)  Be in writing.

(ii)  Be consented to by the attorney for the Commonwealth.

(iii)  Describe the supporting evidence with particularity.

(iv)  Include copies of any documents showing that the moving party is entitled to relief under this section.

e)  Official documentation.–No official determination or documentation is required to grant a motion under this section, but official documentation from a Federal, State or local government agency indicating that the defendant was a victim at the time of the offense creates a presumption that the defendant’s participation in the offense was a direct result of being a victim.

(f)  Grant of motion.–The court shall grant the motion if it finds that:

(1)  The moving party was convicted of an offense described in subsection (d)(1).

(2)  The conviction was obtained as a result of the moving party’s having been a victim of human trafficking.

(g)  Conviction vacated.–If the motion under subsection (d) is granted, the court shall vacate the conviction, strike the adjudication of guilt and order the expungement of the record of the criminal proceedings. The court shall issue an order to expunge all records and files related to the moving party’s arrest, citation, investigation, charge, adjudication of guilt, criminal proceedings and probation for the offense.

A similar law was enacted in New York in 2010, and has been used to help more than 60 trafficking survivors vacate convictions for both prostitution-related offenses and other offenses committed as a result of being trafficking.

Importantly, New York courts have recognized that vacatur relief should not be limited only to convictions for prostitution-related offenses:

“…a victim of human trafficking arrested on prostitution-related charges may ultimately plead guilty to an alternate count. It necessarily follows that where…the arresting charges was loitering for the purpose of engaging in prostitution, and the defendant pleaded guilty to a related non-prostitution crime, then that conviction must be regarded as having resulted from defendant’s having been a victim of sex trafficking. Consequently, that charge may be vacated…” People v. L.G., 41 Misc.3d 428, 972 N.Y.S.2d 418 (2013)

If you would like more information regarding Pennsylvania’s new vacatur law, please contact Shea Rhodes, Director of the CSE Institute, at

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