This August, AB 1735 (an act to amend Sections 1038, 1038.1, and 1038.2 of, and to add Section 1038.3 to, the Evidence Code) became law in California. AB 1735, authored by Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan, offers new protections under California law for survivors and victims of human trafficking by introducing a new communications privilege for caseworkers and victims.
AB 1735 encourages victims to seek help from skilled professionals
without fear of penalty from their exploiters.
This bill also works to expand the privacy of victims of human trafficking
when they seek professional help.
California law establishes evidentiary privileges in situations of human trafficking, including a victim-caseworker privilege. Under that privilege, a human trafficking victim may refuse to disclose or prevent another’s disclosure of a confidential communication made to a human trafficking caseworker.
The law also outlines situations under which the court may compel the disclosure of the privileged communication. AB 1735 bolsters existing law by now allowing a human trafficking victim’s current caseworker to claim the privilege even if that caseworker was not the victim’s caseworker at the time the confidential communication was made.
AB 1735 also expands the victim-caseworker privilege in adjusting the definitions of “holder of the privilege” and “human trafficking caseworker” to be more inclusive and protect more caseworkers who help survivors.
Speaking about her bill, Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan stated . . .
“This statute hasn’t been updated in 14 years. This means that traffickers have attempted to abuse the system and subpoena a victim’s conversations with their caseworker. It’s an abhorrent practice, but those who have shown such little regard for human life will take advantage of any loophole they can find. I’m glad that my legislation will help in the search for justice against these predators and protect victims.”
The bill, which was supported by IANGEL, was also endorsed by the Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking (CAST) and the Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC). PORAC President Brian R. Marvel said of the bill,
“Human trafficking continues to be a major problem in California. We believe this bill will help the victims of human trafficking by providing the necessary caseworker-victim privacy protections they deserve to keep them safe and to heal from the trauma they’ve experienced.”