CourtroomSMSPRINGFIELD – Victims of human trafficking will now have the ability to seal their criminal records under a new law passed by State Senator Toi Hutchinson (D-Chicago Heights) and signed today.

“We know most victims of trafficking are being forced to commit crimes by their trafficker,” Hutchinson said. “Allowing the sealing of criminal records gives survivors more ability to move past their abuse and exploitation and towards recovery and a chance at a normal life.”

The new law, contained in House Bill 5494, creates a petition process that will allow trafficking victims to petition for the immediate sealing of criminal records upon completion of their sentence. Previously, only charges that result in an acquittal or dismissal are eligible for immediate sealing.

In the first six months of 2015, 215 victims of human trafficking in Illinois were reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. While Chicagoland accounts for a majority of these cases, trafficking occurs in small towns and suburban communities across the state.

“When someone is exploited sexually or physically, hope and aspirations vanish and are replaced with fear and pain,” Hutchinson said. “These are survivors who have endured situations we can’t even fathom. Ensuring these victims have the tools available to rebuild their lives is the very least we can offer.”

House Bill 5494 was signed into law on Friday and took effect immediately.

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