For years, the New York Police Department (NYPD) has seized condoms from alleged sex workers to serve as trial evidence, a practice that further exposes men and women to the risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). On Monday, Police Commissioner William Bratton announced a new policy stating that condoms will no longer be used as evidence in prostitution cases.

Civil rights groups including the Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center in New York have long argued that the NYPD’s outdated practice of confiscating condoms not only undermines a community effort to protect individuals from STDs and unwanted pregnancies, but is also a waste of tax dollars. The State of New York gives away an average of 39 million male and two million female condoms each year and New York City alone spends upward of $1 million a year in distributing free condoms.

“It simply does not make sense that New York distributes millions of condoms each year to promote public health only to have condoms confiscated by the police. This bill would encourage all New Yorkers, especially individuals who are regularly stopped by the police, to carry condoms without fear that they will be used against them as evidence in criminal court. This legislation is good public health policy. And it’s also common sense,” said Socheatta Meng, Legislative Counsel New York Civil Liberties Union, in a statement.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the consistent and correct use of condoms has been proven highly effective in preventing the transmission of HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, HPV, and trichomoniasis. Laboratory studies shows that condoms on today’s market can defend against even the smallest STD pathogen.

A report released by the Sex Workers Project and the Providers and Resources Offering Services to Sex Workers Network revealed that 50 percent of people in New York neglected to carry a condom over of fear of prosecution. Unfortunately the “No Condoms as Evidence” bill will only bar the use of condoms as evidence and will not prohibit officers from confiscating them on their own volition.

“Today’s action by the New York State Assembly brings us one step closer to making history as the first state in the country to enact legislation that prohibits police and prosecutors from confiscating and introducing condoms as evidence of intent to engage in prostitution-related offenses,” explained Andrea Ritchie from the No Condoms as Evidence Coalition.