Erie County DA dismisses prostitution bench warrants, following repeal of anti-trans law

Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn announces that his office moved to dismiss bench warrants for individuals charged with the misdemeanor offense of “Loitering for the Purposes of Prostitution” or “Prostitution.” All of the cases dismissed today by District Attorney Flynn involved bench warrants issued in Buffalo City Court prior to his administration.

Today, one bench warrant for an individual charged with Loitering for the Purposes of Prostitution (Penal Law Section 240.37, Class “B” misdemeanor) was dismissed. Earlier this year, DA Flynn and members of the District Attorneys Association of New York (DAASNY) advocated for the repeal of the misdemeanor offense, which was commonly known as “Walking While Trans” due to its history of discriminatory enforcement. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation to repeal the law in February 2021. Since the law can no longer be enforced, prosecutors requested that the only remaining case in Buffalo City Court officially be dismissed.

In recognition of past aggressive approaches taken to curb prostitution and sex trafficking in urban neighborhoods, the Erie County DA’s Office also proactively moved to dismiss bench warrants for those charged with Prostitution (Penal Law Section 230.00, Class “B” misdemeanor) prior to January 1, 2017. A total of six bench warrants were dismissed today in Buffalo City Court.

Any individual charged with a prostitution-related offense in Erie County has their criminal case transferred to the Human Trafficking Intervention Court. This diversion court, overseen by Judge Hon. JaHarr Pridgen in Buffalo City Court, provides a trauma-informed response to justice-involved victims of sex trafficking and others who participate in the sex trade. The court aims to help these individuals, who are vulnerable to exploitation, by providing alternatives to prostitution and connecting them with services such as housing, education, healthcare and job training. Upon successful completion of the diversion court program, criminal charges may be dismissed.

“I advocated for the repeal of Penal Law Section 240.37 because it unfairly targeted members of the LGBTQ+ community and women of color, but other prostitution-related offenses remain illegal in an effort to stop sex trafficking and exploitation. I understand the reasoning of District Attorneys who decline to pursue these criminal charges in an effort to prevent defendants from dealing with the consequences associated with a prostitution conviction. As the District Attorney of Erie County, it is my ethical obligation to prosecute any criminal charge under New York State penal law that an individual has committed beyond a reasonable doubt. By continuing to prosecute those charged with prostitution, I am not seeking to get a conviction. My goal, along with the Human Trafficking Intervention Court, is to help these individuals find an alternative to prostitution and connect them to services to improve their livelihood,” said Erie County District Attorney John Flynn.

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