COLUMBUS -- The Ohio Senate has signed off on legislation that would enable residents forced into prostitution to wipe resulting criminal charges from their records.
SB 4 passed on a unanimous vote and heads to the Ohio House for further consideration.
The bill was sponsored by Sens. Scott Oelslager (R-North Canton) and Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) as part of the state's continuing efforts to counter human trafficking.
"SB 4 is about redemption and it's about recovery," Kunze said. "This is not a life that anyone seeks out. It's abusive and it's filled with force and duress. Women who have escaped from this should not be responsible for crimes they committed when a criminal gave them no choice ."
The legislation would expand the list of crimes that can be expunged from records to include offenses of individuals compelled into prostitution. SB 4 establishes an application process for victims to seek expungement through court systems.
Kunze said prostitution-related charges can hamper victims' ability to pass background checks for new jobs or housing.
" Because a defendant's information is still available as a court record after a dismissal or a finding of not guilty, the potential exists for the victim to suffer significant harm if a potential employer or landlord should discover the record as part of a background check," she said.
Comparable legislation moved through the Ohio Senate last session, but the House did not complete its deliberations on the bill before the end of last year.
Kovac covers the Ohio Statehouse for Gatehouse Media. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.