Underage sex trafficking victims may soon have an easier road to having their records expunged.

Missouri House Bill 397, sponsored by Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold, would help minors in prostitution cases have their records expunged. The Senate gave its final approval to the bill Thursday as the session drew to a close. Now, the bill heads to Gov. Mike Parson.

“Currently, victims who are minors also have to prove coercion, which can be incredibly difficult,” said Sen. Jeanie Riddle, R-Callaway, who presented the bill to the Senate.

Under the measure, someone convicted of prostitution who was under 18 at the time of the offense could apply to have records of the offense expunged. People over the age of 18, however, would still need to prove that they were coerced.

The bill would also add offenses related to sex trafficking to qualify for street gang activity offenses, including solicitation, prostitution and abuse and neglect.

According to data from the National Human Trafficking Hotline, there have been 72 cases of human trafficking in Missouri reported this year. Since 2007, the group has received 2,529 calls that reference Missouri.

The bill passed 34-0. Lawmakers adopted an emergency clause, meaning the bill would go into effect immediately if signed.

  • State government reporter and graduate journalism student at the University of Missouri. Graduated with a BA in journalism from The University of Alabama in 2018.

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