Court Declines to Expunge Human Trafficking Victim’s Kidnapping Arrest

Florida law allows for the expungement of criminal records in certain circumstances. An expungement can provide a defendant with a better chance to start over following a criminal conviction, but they are only granted in certain circumstances, regardless of how sympathetic the defendant’s case is.

For example, in a recent case, a Florida court of appeals held that the law did not allow for a victim of human trafficking to expunge kidnapping charges from her record, despite the fact that she was forced to commit crimes while she was subject to someone else’s control. If you are a resident of Tampa with prior convictions, you should confer with an experienced Tampa criminal defense attorney to discuss your options going forward.

Facts Surrounding the Defendant’s Background

It is reported that the defendant was controlled by a human trafficker for many years. During the time she was controlled by the human trafficker, she was arrested three times for crimes committed as part of the human trafficking scheme. Following an arrest in 2010, she was charged with multiple crimes, including kidnapping. She entered into a plea agreement in which she agreed to assist to cooperate with the State and testify against the human trafficker. As part of the negotiated plea, the state nolle prossed the kidnapping crime. The defendant plead guilty to sex trafficking and other crimes, for which she was sentenced. After her sentence was complete, she petitioned the court to expunge all of her criminal history records pursuant to the Human Trafficking Expunction Statue. Following a hearing, the court granted her petition with the exception of the records related to her kidnapping charge. The defendant subsequently appealed.

Expungement of Records Under the Human Trafficking Victim Expunction Statute

The Human Trafficking Victim Expunction Statute allows a victim of human trafficking to petition the court for the expungement of criminal history records resulting from arrests for crimes committed when the person was a victim of human trafficking. The statute specifically notes, however, that it does not apply to certain enumerated offenses, including kidnapping.

Upon review, the court noted that the terms of the statute were unambiguous and specifically precluded the expungement of records related to kidnapping. The defendant argued that the kidnapping exclusion only applied to individuals who were convicted of kidnapping and because she was merely charged and not convicted the exclusion should not apply. The court declined to adopt the defendant’s reasoning, holding that the language of the statute clearly did not state a conviction was necessary. Further, the statute specifically provided that the records to be expunged included any records from arrests or filing of charges, regardless of the disposition of the charges. The court found that if the legislature intended to limit the enumerated crimes to convicted crimes, it would have set forth those terms in the language of the statute. As such, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Consult a Skilled Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney Today

If you live in Tampa and are charged with one or more crimes, it is in your best interest to consult a skilled criminal defense attorney to analyze the potential defenses to the charges you face. Attorney William Hanlon of Hanlon Law will assess the facts of your case and help you decide the best course of action under the circumstances. Contact our offices at 813-228-7095 or through the online form to set up a consultation.

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