Friend of the Indiana appellate and post-conviction advocate

A Gift From the Legislature: the Vacatur Statute

In my last post, I gave a basic overview of human trafficking laws in Indiana. Not only has Indiana begun recognizing that many in the sex industry are actually trafficking victims, it also has provided trafficking victims with relief from prior convictions.

In 2017, Indiana passed a vacatur statute for both adults and children. Both adult and child trafficking victims may seek relief from their adult convictions and juvenile delinquency adjudications if they can show that they were under the control or coercion of another when they committed the offenses.

With respect to adult convictions, Indiana Code chapter 35-38-10 entitles human trafficking victims to vacation of their convictions, through the post-conviction relief process, if they can show the following by a preponderance of the evidence: (1) they were a human trafficking victim at the time they committed the offense; (2) the offense did not involve bodily injury to any other person; and (3) the victim was coerced by or under the control of another person when they committed the offense.

For juvenile adjudications, Indiana Code section 31-37-22-11 entitles trafficked children to vacation of their delinquency adjudications, through the juvenile disposition modification process, if they can show the same above-mentioned elements by a preponderance of the evidence.

In practice, the vacatur statute could relieve a human trafficking victim from suffering the collateral consequences of a conviction, including service of the sentence, the duty to register as a sex or violent offender, immigration deportation consequences, etc. The vacatur statute also may be useful to challenge a conviction used to support a habitual offender enhancement.

In my third post in this series, I will discuss how the vacatur statute also provides a defense at the trial level to those charged with a criminal offense.

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