Survivors of Trafficking Attaining Relief Together (START) Act: New Law

Signed in honor of Transgender Awareness Week, the START Act amends existing New York State law to extend the availability of post-conviction relief for survivors of sex and labor trafficking. In order to successfully petition for relief under the current law, victims must establish that their convictions followed an arrest resulting from one of a narrowly-defined set of charges. The new law removes the arrest limitation so that relief is available for all prostitution-related convictions regardless of the circumstances of arrest. It also removes functional and procedural barriers to people seeking relief: it will effectively place under court seal all such motions for post-conviction relief, thereby protecting the privacy of movants as they divulge deeply sensitive and personal information in support of their motions; the law will make it possible for movants to seek relief across multiple jurisdictions at one time, removing onerous administrative burdens from movants and the courts alike. It will bring New York law in line with federal immigration case law so that effective vacatur of convictions would be preserved for immigration purposes.

The bill was supported by the Corrections and Community Reentry Committee, Criminal Courts Committee, Immigration and Nationality Law Committee, and Sex and Law Committee. In addition, the International Human Rights Committee issued a supplemental letter to Legislators highlighting the ways in which the START Act’s passage will align New York’s criminal procedure law with human rights guidance on protecting human trafficking survivors. We thank Assembly Member Dick Gottfried and Senator Jessica Ramos for their sponsorship of this important legislation.