A proposed law that would give sex-trafficking victims a way to clear multiple prostitution convictions from their records was voted out of the state House of Representatives Monday.
House Bill 1292 would allow victims of sex trafficking in Washington to apply to vacate past prostitution convictions, even if they have been convicted multiple times or are facing another prostitution charge.
Right now, state law only allows for the vacation of one conviction. If victims of sex trafficking have previously had a conviction vacated or are facing new criminal charges, they can’t wipe their records clean again.
Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, said that many young people who are prostituted when they are underage later break away from their pimps and try to find jobs, but their prostitution convictions form a barrier to getting hired.
“What happens is these young victims are often brought into this industry for many years…and yet, despite this horrific experience they have, they go on to rebuild their lives,” said Orwall, who is the prime sponsor of the bill. “Unfortunately, it’s these past convictions that make it difficult when they become adults.”
Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, said that abused young women shouldn’t be punished later in life because they were forced “into a modern form of slavery.”
“These women aren’t prostitutes, they’re victims,” Goodman said on the House floor.
The sole no vote on the proposal was Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick. While Klippert said he appreciates the intention of the bill, he said doesn’t like the idea of repeatedly letting convicted prostitutes clear their records over and over.
“To continue to put them out into this industry and vacate these (convictions) again and again and again, I’m not sure we’re doing them a service,” Klippert said. “I wish we had some sideboards on this so this vacation doesn’t go on into perpetuity, into infinity, so we can get these young people the help that they need.”
Rep. Roger Freeman, D-Federal Way, said that the court would still have discretion to let a conviction stand, because a court officer would need to approve a victim’s application to vacate a conviction.
“So there is a check and balance,” Freeman said.
The proposal will now head to the Senate for approval.