Friend of the Indiana appellate and post-conviction advocate

Identifying Human Trafficking Victims

In the last post, I discussed the trafficked person defense that I believe Indiana’s vacatur statute has created for human trafficking victims. Anyone who has worked with trafficking victims knows that they rarely self-identify as victims and, even if they do understand they are being victimized rarely feel comfortable disclosing that fact to a stranger. Our duty as laywers is to familiarize ourselves with the signs of a potential human trafficking victim in order to effectively communicate with our clients to determine whether they are indeed being trafficked.

The following are just some of the many warning signs that a person may be a trafficking victim:

  • a transient or unstable living situation
  • a sporadic or nonexistent work history
  • expressed concerns about their mental or physical health or wellbeing
  • the denial of food, water, or medical care
  • if they have children, concerns for their safety or threats made by someone that their children will be removed from their care
  • a history of trauma/abuse
  • immigration issues, including confiscation by another of immigration/identification documents, threats to call ICE, etc.
  • prior criminal history that follows a pattern (a string of offenses commonly committed by trafficked victims)
  • circumstances surrounding the current offense, including what happened earlier that day, who they were with, etc.
  • apparent isolation or restricted communication caused by another
  • debts owed that must be “worked off”
  • complaints that someone is monitoring or stalking them
  • controlled by another through a set of rules and consequences
  • use of drugs of alcohol to diminish the client’s resistance or to debilitate the person

Also, consider the offenses for which clients are charged. The following are the most common offenses a trafficked person may be forced to commit: prostitution, various drug offenses, theft and other property offenses, robbery, etc.

If you determine your client is indeed being trafficked, and s/he is willing to disclose, what should happen next? In what ways can you assert the defense on behalf of your client? I will address this in my next post in this series.

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