In my last post, I provided numerous signs to look for when interacting with clients that may suggest they are human trafficking victims. If you determine that a client is a trafficking victim and that your client committed the offense as part of being trafficked, there are several ways you can present this information to the court on behalf of your client.
First, you could file a motion to dismiss the offense, alleging it occurred as a result of the coercion or control of the trafficker. You could make the same motion during trial as justification for the offense, to negate your client’s mens rea, or to show that the act was involuntary under Indiana Code section 35-41-2-1. If all else fails, your client’s status as a trafficked person is powerful mitigating evidence at sentencing.
In the case of a juvenile trafficking victim, you could ask that the child be assessed to determine whether s/he is a dual-status child and in need of services through child welfare proceedings rather than delinquency court. If the delinquency allegation is adjudicated, counsel could present a trafficked child defense. Finally, the fact that the child is a human trafficking victim could be presented to determine the appropriate placement for the child as part of the dispositional decree.
In my next post, I will outline just a few of the ethical considerations surrounding presentation of the trafficked person defense.