The Application of the Non-punishment Principle to Victims of Human Trafficking in the United States

Reference work entry


Victims of human trafficking are often arrested, charged, and convicted of criminal offenses they committed in the course of the trafficking situation. Criminal records considerably limit their opportunities for employment, housing, medical care, immigration authorization, among other vital services and opportunities, often alienating them and casting a social stigma. This chapter discusses the existing literature on the non-criminalization principle recommended by international organizations and human rights advocates as a way to protect victims of human trafficking from prosecution for offenses they committed under duress. More specifically, the chapter examines the variability between US state laws with the focus on safe harbor, affirmative defense, and vacatur laws. The analysis aims to contribute to the literature on prosecution of human trafficking and victim assistance, shedding light on important elements of how victims can recover from the trafficking experience and transition back to normal life. In conclusion, the chapter highlights the progress achieved and challenges that remain in the US responses to human trafficking, reflecting on the evolution of services for victims of human trafficking and potential future developments in victim assistance programs.


Non-punishment principle Duress-based model Causation-based model Vacatur law Safe harbor law Human trafficking court 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer International Publishing AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceJohn Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York (CUNY)New YorkUSA

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