Human Trafficking Laws, Charges & Statute of Limitations

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Human trafficking happens when one or more individuals are controlled and exploited for profit. Victims include adults over the of 18 who are deceived or coerced into commercial sex acts, children who are sold or otherwise used in the sex trade, and anyone who is compelled to take part in forced labor. Across the country, state legislators are trying to address increasing numbers of human trafficking. As a result, there are stringent federal laws in place, but many states also have their own laws, some more significant than others.

Human Trafficking Laws

There are numerous laws, acts, and regulations in place to stop and punish the crime of human trafficking. At federal level, these are:

  • The U.S. Code, Title 22, Chapter 78 – Trafficking Victims Protection
  • The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act (TVPA)
  • The Customs and Facilitations and Trade Enforcement Reauthorization Act of 2009
  • The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004
  • The PROTECT Act of 2003
  • The Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000 (CAFRA)
  • The Mann Act of 1910

These laws, acts, and regulations are applicable across the country. Each state also has its own laws to address trafficking, but the enforcement priorities, penalties, and definitions all vary. The majority of states now recognize that sex trafficking exists and is a criminal act. This recognition has only been done recently. In fact, to date, less than 10% of local and state law enforcement agencies have policies or protocols in place on human trafficking.

Human Trafficking Crimes & Charges

Crimes of human trafficking are described in Title 18, Chapter 77. The focus is on the act of coercion or compelling an individual’s commercial sex acts, services, or labor. This coercion can be overt or subtle, psychological or physical, but it has to be used to coerce the victim into providing the aforementioned acts, services, or labor. The statutes of relevance are rooted into the Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which prohibits involuntary servitude and slavery. Most crimes and charges are enforced by the Civil Rights Division and the United States Attorneys’ offices.

Human Trafficking Punishment

The punishment for human trafficking varies from one state to another, as well as the type of trafficking that was involved. As such:

  • Human trafficking on its own carries sentences of between three and eight years. If the person involved was a minor, a four year minimum sentence is required.
  • If rape is involved, section 264 states penalties of between three and eight years in prison must be imposed.
  • If rape in concert was involved, section 246.1 states penalties of between five and nine years in prison must be imposed.
  • If kidnapping was involved, section 208 demands a minimum sentence of between three and 11 years. If the person kidnapped was under the age of 14, a minimum sentence of five years will be imposed.
  • If kidnapping to commit sexual crimes was involved, section 209 imposes a life imprisonment sentence with the possibility of parole.

Human Trafficking Sentencing Guidelines

Sentencing in human trafficking cases is often very difficult. With human trafficking, there are usually a number of aggravating and mitigating factors that must be taken into consideration. If the individual involved was under the age of 18, and if sex trafficking is involved, harsher penalties are usually imposed. Prosecutors are often encouraged to trial these as separate offences, particularly because the victim’s age is a significant aggravating factor.

Other aggravating circumstances that will incur harsher penalties include:

  • If the defendant has committed human trafficking crimes in the past, be they prostitution, sex trafficking, labor trafficking, or any other type
  • If the victim suffered bodily harm during sex trafficking
  • If the victim was held in the sex trafficking situation for more than 180 days
  • If there was more than one victim involved
  • If the defendant is a public official

Human Trafficking Statute of Limitations

On a federal level, there is no statute of limitations on human trafficking. Some states do have statutes of limitations in place, although these are often tolled. This is important because the victims of these cases are often minors, and all are emotionally scarred, which can make it difficult for them to come forward.

Human Trafficking Cases

  • A man was arrested in Piqua, OH, by the FBI on human trafficking charges. The man has been charged with prostitution of a minor. The case is still under investigation, so few details have been made available. However, the defendant is being held in jail and will not be released on bail pending the outcome of his hearing. (Troy Daily News)
  • A man has been arrested and charged with forced prostitution of two women in Bountiful, UT. The prosecution is using the case as an example to highlight the risk women face right here in this country. They believe around 100,000 women are currently being held in forced prostitution situations in this country. (2 KUT-V)
  • One man has been arrested on human trafficking and forced prostitution charges. One of his alleged victims, a 19 year old, has come forward to say that she was not being forced into prostitution, but that the man is her boyfriend, with whom she has an open relationship. However, according to law enforcement agents, the man had two women under his command, holding their identification and bank cards in his wallet, as well as other telltale signs. (Arkansas Matters)
  • A human trafficking case in Frederick County is likely to be trialed at federal level. A man is alleged to have sex trafficked two underage girls. (The Frederick News Post)
  • Michigan is putting new trafficking laws in place to curtail the increasing number of trafficking cases that happen in the state each year. (The Christian Science Monitor)

Human Trafficking Quick Links & References

Human Trafficking Laws by State

Human trafficking has long been a federal crime only. However, in 2003, the state of Washington became the first to criminalize this act. From then on, every state developed their own laws determining what kind of criminal penalties would be imposed on those who trafficked human beings, leading to sexual servitude or forced labor. Indeed, many states have made specific distinctions between the two. Each state has varying laws in terms of defining a “trafficker”, how guilt is proven, and how serious the punishments are. Various organizations regularly review the laws that are in place and make recommendations on how they can be improved. Below is an overview of some of the most important bills and laws relating to human trafficking per state.

AlabamaHawaiiMassachusettsNew MexicoSouth Dakota
AlaskaIdahoMichiganNew YorkTennessee
ArizonaIllinoisMinnesotaNorth CarolinaTexas
ArkansasIndianaMississippiNorth DakotaUtah
DelawareLouisianaNevadaPennsylvaniaWest Virginia
FloridaMaineNew HampshireRhode IslandWisconsin
GeorgiaMarylandNew JerseySouth CarolinaWyoming


Alabama is one of just three states in which corporations and businesses may be prosecuted for human trafficking. This happens when the entity can reasonably be expected to know that human trafficking for forced labor was happening.


Alaska’s human trafficking laws are focused on sex trafficking and are classified as 1st degree up to 4th degree based on certain factors

  • 1st degree sex trafficking – unclassified felony
  • 2nd degree sex trafficking – class B felony
  • 3rd degree sex trafficking – class C felony
  • 4th degree sex trafficking – class A misdemeanor


HB 2405 (2011) covers:

  • Penalties for human trafficking that may not be suspended
  • Pardon, probation, commuting of sentence, and temporary release

SB 1059 (2010) covers sex trafficking transport by force, coercion, or deception

HB 2238 (2010) covers human trafficking

SB 1281 (2009) defines forced labor

  1. 1372 (A.R.S. Section 13-306) (2005) determines that human trafficking is a felony

SB 1338 nm (2005) determines:

  • A 30 years presumptive sentence for trafficking of minors under 15 for subsequent offenses
  • Sex offender registration

HB 1372 (A.R.S. Section 13-306) (2005) covers restitution for victims.


  • Human Trafficking Act of 2013
  • Trafficking of persons – class A felony; class Y felony if victim was a minor at that time – in addition to any other sentence, the offender is required to pay a fine of $250 that will be paid to the Safe Harbor Fund for Sexually Exploited Children
  • Knowingly patronizing someone who is a victim of human trafficking – class B felony; class A felony if victim was a minor at that time


SB 657 (2010) is the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010, forcing retailers to disclose how they avoid slavery.

AB 90 (2011) defines:

  • Criminal profiteering of sex trafficking
  • Forfeiture regulations

AB 2212 (2011) defines:

  • That a building in which acts of human trafficking have occurred is a public nuisance
  • Applicable civil penalties

AB 2466 (2011) defines restitution to victims.

SB 1133 (2011) is part of the Control of Profits of Organized Crime Act, which covers forfeiture.

AB 12 (2011), which is the Abolition of Child Commerce, Exploitation and Sexual Slavery Act of 2011 covering fines.

SB 1569 (Welfare & Inst. Code Section 13283 et seq.) (2006), which covers human trafficking of refugees.

AB 22 (Cal Pen. Code Section 236.1) (2005) covers:

  • Trafficking as a felony offense
  • Trafficking of minors
  • Sentences of three, four, or five years in state prison for forced labor and four, six, or eight years for trafficking minors

AB 22 (Cal Pen. Code Section 236.1) (2005) allows victims to bring forth civil charges.


HB 1151 (2012) covers:

  • That buildings in which human trafficking occurs are a public nuisance
  • Forfeiture
  • Restitution

SB 140 (2010) defines trafficking adults and children.

HB 1123 (2009) defines trafficking of a minor under 16 as a Class 2 felony.

SB 004 and 005 (2006) define threatening migrants with destruction of work documents for forced labor as a class 6 felony.

Under SB 206 (2006):

  • Smuggling humans is a class 3 felony.
  • Smuggling adult illegal immigrants is a class 2 felony.

Under SB 207 (2006):

  • Human trafficking is a crime.
  • Trafficking a child under 16 is a class 3 felony.


HB 5504 (2012) covers the sexual exploitation of minors.

H 5030 (2010) defines forfeiture.

SB 153 (2010) sets the punishments for prostitution.

SB 153 (53-394 et seq.) (2006) sets the criminal and civil penalties for human trafficking and links it to the racketeering statute.


HB 116 (Section 787) (2007) determines that trafficking people and placing them in involuntary servitude is a felony. The laws are copied from the legislation set by the federal Department of Justice. Restitution is also required.


HB 99 (2012) defines the sexual exploitation of children and sets acceptable civil penalties.

HB 437 (2012) is the Protect Our Children Act of 2012, which sets that in cases of multiple children being exploited, each child is classed as a separate offense. It also defines registration as a sex offender.

HB 7049 (2012) sets the qualifying offenses and criminal sentencing guidelines.

SB 250 (2006) criminalizes human trafficking and defines it. It also states victims can receive three times the monetary amount that was earned from their services as restitution.

SB 1962 (Chapter 391) (2004) defines:

  • Sex trafficking as a 1st degree felony – up to 30 years imprisonment
  • Obtaining forced labor and participating in human trafficking as 2nd degree felonies – up to 15 years imprisonment.
  • All sex trafficking that leads to death or is committed against a minor under 14 as a 1st degree felony – up to 30 years imprisonment.


HB 200 (2011) discourages that people are trafficked for sexual servitude or labor and requests federal assistance under the Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights. It also sets harsher penalties for victims who are youths.


HB 1912 (2008) prohibits the possession, removal, concealment, or destruction of government documents such as immigration papers or passports.

HB 2051 (2006) has set a requirement for greater state laws to be defined. A task force is currently working on this.


SB 1337 (2012) defines the sexual exploitation of children.

HB 235 (2011) is the Criminal Gang Enforcement Act which sets prison sentences for crimes relating to sexual exploitation of children.

HB 536 (18-8501 et seq.) (2006) sets the punishment for human trafficking crimes, including restitution.

SB 1037 (2011) focuses on sex trafficking and involuntary sexual servitude of minors.


HB 1907 (2011) focuses on forced labor and places it under the Street Gang and Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations Law.

HB 4028 (2011) focuses on involuntary sexual servitude of minors and places it under the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act.

HB 5278 (2011) sets the definition of prosecution for sex trafficking of minors.

HB 1299 (735 ILCS 5/13-225) (2006) is the Predator Accountability Act that sets the prosecutions of offenders.

HB 1469 (Act No. 94-9) (2005) defines trafficking of persons for force labor and services, sexual servitude of a minor, and involuntary servitude as offenses.


HB 1080 (2012) makes it illegal to transport, harbor, or recruit a child under 16 for forced prostitution or labor. If the child is younger than 18 or the offender is within four years of the victim’s age, it is classified as sexual battery.

SB 4 (2012) defines human trafficking. With victims younger than 16, the offense is considered as a Class B felony.

HB 1386 (Section 11-8-8-5 et seq.) (2007) – human traffickers may have to register as sex offenders.


HB 2390 (2011) defines human trafficking as a crime.

Code chapter 710A (human trafficking) sets human trafficking as a criminal offense.

SB 2219 (Section 710A.1 et seq.) (2006) sets human trafficking as a felony offense.


HB 2318 (2011) – sentencing and criminal penalties for human trafficking

HB 2568 (2011) – sex offender registration for certain sex trafficking crimes

SB 282 (2011) –  regulations on forfeiture

HB 2010 (2011) – civil procedures involved in human trafficking

SB 37 (2011) further regulates sex offender registration.

SB 434 (2010) – criminal procedures for human trafficking

SB 586 (2010) – aggravated human trafficking as a severity level 1, person felony.

SB 353 (2010) defines forced labor.

SB 72 (K.S.A. Section 21-3707) (2005) defines:

  • Severity level 2, person felony
  • Aggravated trafficking. Severity level 1, person felony


Kentucky SB 43 (Section 506.120 et seq.) (2007) makes human trafficking a felony crime.


HB 138 (2012) sets regulations in relation to sex offender registration.

HB 49 (2011) defines the crime of human trafficking and sex trafficking of minors, and sets the penalties.

HB 531 (2010) further defines human trafficking.

HB 825 (2010) defines that sex trafficking leads to mandatory sex offender registration.

SB 56 (2010) mandates impoundment and seizure of personal property used in sex trafficking of minors and enticing people into prostitution.

HB 564 (2009) defines trafficking children for sexual purposes as a crime and sets the penalties.

HB 970 (15:541) (2007) defines that human trafficking may be part of sexual offenses against minors.

HB 56 (Act 187) (2005) makes human trafficking a separate state crime with penalties of:

  • Fine of up to $10,000 and up to 10 years imprisonment for human trafficking
  • Fine of up to $15,000 and up to 20 years imprisonment for human trafficking with intent of sexual activities.
  • Fine of up to $25,000 and between five and 25 years imprisonment for human trafficking with victims under 18.


SB 591 (2011) is the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act of 2012 – registration requirements and penalties for sexual exploitation of minors and aggravated promotion of prostitution.

HB 893 (2006) has developed the Human Trafficking Task Force, which is developing criminal statutes as they relate to human trafficking.


HB 860 (2012) defines sexual abuse for children, including human trafficking.

SB 1082 (2012) further defines sexual abuse for children, including human trafficking.

HB 345 (2011) specifies how evidence may be collected for human trafficking offenses.

SB 299 (2011) specifies how evidence may be collected for human trafficking offenses involving minors.

SB 327 (2011) is the Human Trafficking Victim Protection Act, discussing who has the burden of proof.

SB 517 (2010) defines human trafficking and how it relates to gang laws.

HB 283 (2010) adds sexual coercive activities to human trafficking laws.

HB 876 & SB 606 (11-303) (2007) sets the felony penalties for human trafficking of adults and of minors.


HB 3808 (2011) defines human trafficking for sexual servitude as a crime:

  • Between five and 20 years imprisonment
  • Fine of up to $25,000
  • Up to life in prison when victim is under 18
  • Fine of up to $1 million for business entities convicted


HB 5748 (Section 750.451 et seq.) (2006) defines human trafficking as a felony under the Michigan Penal Code. Penalties are:

  • 10 years to life in prison for forced labor
  • Up to life in prison for engaging in criminal sexual conduct with a victim of human trafficking


HB 1505 (2009) sets the criminal penalties for certain sex trafficking offenses.


SB 2376 (2012) sets certain sexual acts with a child as a felony offense and determines mandatory sex offender registration.

HB 381 (Section 97-3-107) (2006) is the Anti-Human Trafficking Act – forced labor and sexual trafficking are crimes. Up to 20 years imprisonment


HB 214 (2011) sets the various human trafficking laws, penalties, affirmative defense, and rules on restitution.

HB 353 (Section 566.200 – 566.223) (2005) – human trafficking for international matchmaking organizations, classifying it as a class D felony.

HB 1487 (Section 168.071 R.S.Mo.) (2004) says that:

  • Sexual trafficking of a child is a class A felony.
  • Abusing individuals through sexual exploitation or forced labor is a class B felony.
  • Contributing to human trafficking by misusing documentation is a class D felony.
  • Rights protection to be provided for victims under the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000.


SB 385 (2007) sets forced labor and trafficking people for forced labor as a crime leading to between 10 and 100 years imprisonment and up to $100,000 fine.


LB 1145 (2011) sets the penalties for human trafficking.

LB 771 (2010) sets the criminal offenses for human trafficking of pregnant women and classifies offenders as dangerous sex offenders requiring sex offender registration and probation.


AB 383 (Section 200) (2007) sets trafficking of persons as felony crimes.

New Hampshire

HB 474 (2009) makes trafficking in persons a crime and sets penalties, including forfeiture. It also sets extended penalties for victims under 18.

New Jersey

AB 2730 (Chapter 77) (2005) sets human trafficking as a 1st degree crime resulting into up to 20 years imprisonment.

New Mexico

SB 71 (2008) sets human trafficking as a crime and determines the penalties.

New York

SB 5902 (Penal Code Section 230.34, Section 135.35 et seq.) (2007) sets human trafficking as a felony crime and defines the penalties, as well as services for victims.

North Carolina

SB 910 (2011) says human trafficking is a criminal offense.

HB 1403 (2010) says that convicted offenders must provide a DNA sample.

HB 1896 (2006) says that human trafficking is a felony offense.

North Dakota

SB 2209 (2009) determines human trafficking as a felony.


HB 262 (2011) sets increased penalties for human trafficking.

HB 262 (2011) sets the rights of victims of human trafficking.

SB 162 (2010) says that telephone companies may not engage in human trafficking.

SB 235 (2010) sets the criminal offenses as they relate to documents and human trafficking.


HB 2518 (2011) defines human trafficking for sexual purposes.

SB 956 (2010) sets the crime and punishment of human trafficking, including civil action and statute of limitations thereof. Also defines seizure and forfeiture of property.

HB 2983 (2010) sets the crime and punishment for human trafficking organizations.

SB 2258 (2010) is the Greater Protecting Victims of Human Trafficking Act of 2010, which focuses on the trafficking of humans, including aliens.


SB 578 (Section 131.602 et seq.) (2007) sets human trafficking as a felony crime.


SB 100 (2011) defines the sanctions for human trafficking offenders violating probation.

SB 1183 (2011) defines prostitution of a minor.

SR 253 2010 sets the requirement for the creation of an advisory committee to create new laws to prevent and punish human trafficking.

HB 1112 (Section 9720.2, Section 911) (2006) states that human trafficking is a racketeering offense – p to life imprisonment if it includes kidnapping or rape.

Rhode Island

Rhode Island HB 5350 (2009) provides protection and services to human trafficking victims.

HB 5661 (2009) and SB 605 (2009) set punishments of at least a $40,000 fine and up to life imprisonment for offenders guilty of sex trafficking a minor.

SB 5881 & SB 692 (Section 11-67-1 et seq.) (2007) set forced labor and human trafficking as a felony crime and determines the penalties.

South Carolina

HB 3757 (2011) defines human trafficking offenses and sets penalties.

HB 4202 (2010) defines human trafficking as a class A felony.

South Dakota

SB 176 (2011) defines the crime of human trafficking, sets its various degrees, and sets its criminal penalties.


HB 2489 (2011) sets the civil rights of victims of human trafficking.

HB 171 (2011) sets forfeiture requirements of personal property related to human trafficking offenses.

SB 2371 (2011) defines sex trafficking as a crime and sets elements of the crime as it relates to victims who are minors.

HB 1302 (2010) defines civil action against those guilty of trafficking and adds compelling production of pornography, compelling prostitution, and unlawful restraint as new offenses.

SB 2724 (2010) sets requirements for registration on the Tennessee Sexual Offender and Violent Sexual Offender Registration.


HB 1121 (Code of Crim. Pro. Section 42.0191 et seq) (2007) sets the protection of human trafficking victims.

SB 11 & SCR 90 (Penal Code Section  20A.01) (2007) defines human trafficking.

HB 2096 (Tex. Penal Code Section 20A.02 ) (2003) sets human trafficking:

  • 2nd degree felony – two to 20 years imprisonment
  • 1st degree felony – five to 99 years imprisonment if the victim is younger than 14.


HB 17 (2012) has created the Sex and Kidnap Offender Registry.

HB 97 (2012) defines human trafficking as racketeering.

HB 276 (2012) adds aiding prostitution as a criminal offense.

HB 230 (2010) adds human trafficking and human smuggling as separate offenses.

HB 339 (2008) (Section 76-5-308 et. seq.) sets the crime for people smuggling, human trafficking, and kidnapping.


HB 153 (2011) proposes criminal penalties for human trafficking and child sex trafficking.

SB 125 (2010) includes human trafficking under sex registry laws.

SB 125 (2009) makes sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion a new crime.


HB 546 (2012) defines crimes committed to criminal street gangs and how they relate to prostitution.

HB 1898 (2011) defines sex trafficking of a child under 16 as a class 2 felony.

HB 1113 (2010) – vehicles involved in felony offenses including sex trafficking to be seized and forfeited.

HB 2016 (2009) further defines “abduction”.

SB 815 and SB 2212 (2007) – those who threaten to withhold, withhold, confiscate, remove, conceal, or destroy immigration or government identification documents are guilty of a class 5 felony.

SB 291 (2006) – threatening to report illegal status in order to extort money is a class 5 felony.


HB 1983 (2011) sets the fines for prostitution crimes including sex trafficking.

HB 2692 (2011) modifies penalties relating to commercial sale of sex, including sex trafficking.

SB 6251 (2011) defines advertising commercial sexual abuse of a minor as a class C felony.

SB 6252 (2011) places commercial sexual abuse of a minor and promotion thereof under the Criminal Profiteering Act.

SB 6253 (2011) determines seizure and forfeiture of property as it relates to 1st degree sexual trafficking crimes.

SB 6256 (2011) determines that the commercial sexual abuse of a minor may be a criminal street gang offense.

SB 5546 (2011) changes the crime of human trafficking.

SB 6332 (2010) defines human trafficking and how it relates to forced labor of foreign workers in particular.

HB 1175 (A.R.C.W. Section 7.68.350) (2003) sets:

  • 1st and 2nd degree sex trafficking and labor trafficking as a class A felony.
  • 1st degree offense – Up to 14 years imprisonment
  • 2nd degree offense – Up to nine years imprisonment
  • Victims may sue for damages.

West Virginia

HB 4053 (2012) defines the criminal offenses of human trafficking and kidnapping.


SB 536 (2011) determines the criminal procedure and statute of limitations of sex trafficking of children.


2014 Wyoming Statutes, TITLE 6 – CRIMES AND OFFENSES, CHAPTER 2 – OFFENSES AGAINST THE PERSON, ARTICLE 7 – HUMAN TRAFFICKING – the various crimes and punishments as they relate to human trafficking and sex trafficking.