August 14, 2020

STATEMENT – No Second Chances for Sex Traffickers: Arizona Supreme Court Asked to Withhold Problematic “Second Chances” From the Arizona Ballot

National Center on Sexual Exploitation Files Brief Highlighting How the Measure Undermines Justice for Victims of Sex Trafficking

Washington, DC (August 14, 2020) – The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) Law Center filed an Amicus Brief on behalf of anti-trafficking and victim-services organizations with the Arizona Supreme Court in support of the plaintiffs in Lawall et al. v. Hobbs et al. NCOSE is asking that the Court withhold the “Second Chances, Rehabilitation, and Public Safety Act” measure from the ballot on the basis of its “confusing and deceptively worded description” that did not give Arizonans a fair opportunity to understand its impact.

“Arizonans who were asked to sign petitions for this measure have misleadingly been told that it only applies to ‘nondangerous offenses.’ However, they were never advised that such an innocuous sounding category would encompass the vast majority of crimes in Arizona—including transparently dangerous and indeed heinous acts—like the sex trafficking of children,” wrote Peter Gentala, senior legal counsel for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation Law Center, in the brief. “Such a grossly misleading description of the principal provisions of the Initiative utterly falls short of the basic disclosure requirements of A.R.S. § 19-102(A), as well as this Court’s jurisprudence. Out of respect for the role of the Electorate in its law-giving function, this Court should invalidate this brazen attempt to gain access to the ballot through misdirection, deception, and confusion.

“The larger issue here is the fact that yet again sex trafficking has been overlooked. And reforms that many want to support, such as this one in Arizona, undermine the ability to get justice for child victims of sex trafficking,” said Benjamin Bull, senior vice president and general counsel for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation Law Center. “Obviously, we all agree that sex trafficking, and particularly child sex trafficking, is a violent and. dangerous crime. It is incumbent for supporters of criminal-justice reform to work with anti-trafficking and victim-services organizations to ensure that any proposed changes to the law do not let sex traffickers off the hook.”

The brief was filed on behalf of NCOSE, the Arizona Child and Family Advocacy Network, and Winged Hope Family Advocacy Foundation. In order to meet ballot-printing deadlines, the decision of the Court will be announced later in August.

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