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The Bar Bulletin
Jax Daily Record Monday, Dec. 10, 201805:20 AM EST

Pro Bono: Human trafficking survivor gets chance to turn life around

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‘It was an incredibly proud moment,’ attorney BeJae Shelton says.

By Kathy Para, JBA Pro Bono Committee Chair

In the Florida Statutes outlining requirements for criminal arrest record sealing, there is an exception for victims of human trafficking.

In most cases, a person with multiple arrests may only seal one record, but victims of human trafficking may seal all charges stemming from the trafficking experience.

Attorney BeJae Shelton accepted the case of a trafficking survivor referred to her by the Jacksonville Bar Association Human Rights Committee, of which Shelton was a member.  Imagine the contrast of her client’s life and future prior to Shelton’s assistance and after. 

What were the basic facts of your case? My client is a survivor of human trafficking. She was forced into sex work and made to transport drugs on behalf of her trafficker. As a result, she was arrested in multiple counties on multiple charges. Her trafficker ultimately was convicted for his crimes and my client was recognized as the victim.

What were you able to accomplish for your client? I was able to successfully expunge all charges my client received as a result of being a victim of human trafficking.

Why was the outcome important to your client? My client is a survivor who has really turned her life around. She now lives up north and just completed esthetician school. The last charge was expunged right before she graduated and that was incredibly important to the client because she was able to get her clearance from the state board immediately after graduation.

Why was the experience important to you and what did you gain from the experience? I truly enjoy helping survivors of human trafficking get their lives back on track.

Not only did it teach me that no matter how bad things are, a fresh start is possible, it also gave me the opportunity to be part of someone’s fresh start. Hearing how excited my client was when she found out all the charges were expunged and she would be able to get her esthetician license was an incredibly proud moment for me.

What is the name of your firm?  In what areas do you practice? I work for Finnell, McGuinness, Nezami & Andux P.A. and practice primarily criminal defense. 

What advice do you have for attorneys considering pro bono involvement? Do it. I know sometimes it feels like you might not have the time, but at the end of the day, helping someone who has less than you is always a rewarding experience.

Shelton’s client was given the opportunity to write a new chapter in her life and choose a path to productivity and healing. Shelton reports that she spent about six hours on this case. Most of us would agree that was six hours very well spent. Her client surely would agree.

Attorneys interested in providing pro bono assistance are encouraged to review the brief case descriptions at floridaprobonomatters.org. On the search line, simply type in your county to view cases.

Additional pro bono opportunities such as Ask-A-Lawyer events and clinic assistance can be viewed on the Pro Bono Committee page at jaxbar.org.

There are many opportunities that help to increase access to our judicial system and that are meaningful and manageable.  Contact Pro Bono Committee Chair Kathy Para with questions, ideas and for more information at [email protected].

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