New York has had a strong Human Trafficking Law on the books since 2007, but recently special courts have been set up to address this nationwide problem. New York state Penal Law Section 230.34 covers the crime of Sex Trafficking, which is a class B felony.
New York State is in the process of creating a statewide court system which aims to help the victims of human trafficking who get caught up in the criminal justice system. The goal is to offer defendants who are deemed victims the opportunity to avoid a criminal prosecution. Instead, defendants are offered non criminal dispositions in exchange for agreeing to attend rehabilitation and education programs . One of the first of these courts was set up in Nassau County.
New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman announced the program in a speech at the Citizens Crime Commission in September of 2013. He emphasized the connection between human trafficking and the sex trade in New York State.
Steven Banks, the Attorney-in-Chief of The Legal Aid Society also spoke at the meeting. Banks told the commission that “our front-line Legal Aid staff in all five boroughs see the painful impact of charging survivors of human trafficking with crimes when they are actually crime victims. Criminal convictions in these cases can indelibly scar those who have been subjected to human trafficking by leaving them with a criminal record that affects employment, housing, financial aid for college, government benefits, and immigration status. ”
According to Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, the Nassau County Human Trafficking Court handled 295 cases in its first year. As a result of the new court, 126 defendants were referred to programs.
Suffolk County has established the Suffolk County Human Trafficking Intervention Court. No statistics were available regarding the number of cases it has handled at the time this article was written.
Click this link for more information on New York’s prostitution laws.