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NY Officials Want Law Banning Use Of Condoms As Evidence In Prostitution Cases

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Advocates are rallying for passage of a bill in Albany that would ban prosecutors from using condoms as evidence in prostitution and sex trafficking cases.

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice was the first in the state to put the policy into effect and now she is leading the fight for the passage of a state law.

"Right now sex workers across most of the state, they face a very disturbing choice -- carry condoms that may save their lives but also land them in jail or don't carry condoms and endanger themselves and others," Rice said during a rally outside City Hall on Thursday.

Officials Call For State Law Banning Condoms As Evidence In Criminal Cases

The practice of using condoms as evidence for prostitution charges has come under strong criticism in recent months.

In March, the Village Voice reported that some sex workers have complained that they picked up free condoms supplied by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene at distribution sites, only to be arrested by police officers when the condoms were found.

"You have on the one hand, government wisely providing easy public access to condoms that will prevent disease, but then with the other hand, you have the government reaching back into the pockets of these vulnerable people to seize the condoms and use them against these often exploited and victimized sex workers in court," Rice said.

Hayley Gorenberg, the Deputy Legal Director of the gay rights group Lambda Legal, called it a "public health scandal."

City lawmakers said the government should be encouraging condom use, not criminalizing it.

"We want you to wear a condom and not be afraid that you're going to be stopped on the streets or in a shop and then be accused of prostitution because you happen to have a condom in your wallet or in your pocket," City Councilmember Jessica Lappin said.

Officials Call For State Law Banning Condoms As Evidence In Criminal Cases

"We will not criminalize people for protecting themselves," City Councilmember Steve Levin said.

Recently, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes called on the New York City Police Department to stop using condoms as evidence in prostitution cases, according to a press release.

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