Sex Trafficking + Laws, Charges & Statute of Limitations

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Sex trafficking has been popularized through television and movies. Pimps look like suave gentlemen living lavish lifestyles with expensive cars and big jewelry. The women, meanwhile, are depicted as adults who voluntarily and consensually engage in prostitution. Unfortunately, this is a highly inaccurate depiction. The reality is that pimps traffic young women, or men, forcing them by threats and/or violence, to enter an industry they want no part of. This is known as sex trafficking, and it is a very serious crime.

Sex Trafficking Laws

Sex trafficking is defined under 22 U.S. Code Section 7102 – Definitions. This is a lengthy code that defines the various forms of sex trafficking that exist. Particularly, they highlight so called ‘severe forms’ of trafficking. Severe forms often involve people under the age of 18, trafficking through coercion, fraud, and/or force, and human slavery. Sex trafficking is defined as the harboring, recruitment, provision, transportation, patronizing, obtaining, or soliciting someone in order to engage in a commercial sex act.
Sex trafficking is also covered under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), as well as under the following statutes:

  • 18 U.S.C. Sec 1581 (Peonage)
  • 18 U.S.C. Sec 1584 (Involuntary Servitude)
  • 18 U.S.C. Sec 1589 (Forced Labor)
  • 18 U.S.C. Sec 1590 (Trafficking with Respect to Peonage, Slavery, Involuntary Servitude, or Forced Labor)
  •  18 U.S.C. Sec 1591 (Sex Trafficking of Children or by Force, Fraud, or Coercion)
  • 18 U.S.C. Sec 1592 (Unlawful Conduct with Respect to Documents in Furtherance of Trafficking, Peonage, Slavery, Involuntary Servitude, or Forced Labor)
  • 18 U.S.C. Sec 1593 (Mandatory Restitution)
  • 18 U.S.C. Sec 1594 (Attempt and Forfeiture)
  • 18 U.S.C. Sec 1595 (Private Right of Action)
  • 18 U.S.C. Sec 2423 (Transportation of Minors into Prostitution)
  • 18 U.S.C. Sec 1546 (Visa Fraud)

Sex Trafficking Crimes & Charges

As shown above, there are many laws involved with sex trafficking, and many factors that will determine the exact crimes and charges. Sex trafficking is a very complex, and very serious offense. Penalties are, quite rightly, very harsh and will go up depending on the severity of the case (for instance, if someone sustained bodily harm and/or if the victim was a minor).

Sex Trafficking Punishment

A number of punishments are commonly applied if someone is convicted of sex trafficking. These include:

  • Imprisonment from 15 years to life
  • Fines of up to $1,500,000
  • Having to register as a sex offender, often for life
  • Having to provide information about any online identities and any internet access

Often, the fines are used to further support sex trafficking victim services and law enforcement organizations.

Sex Trafficking Sentencing Guidelines

Sex trafficking sentences must be sufficiently severe to ensure the offender is actually held accountable. For this reason, the charge of rape is usually implied. If the victim in the case was under the age of 18 or otherwise incapable of consenting, the punishments should be even harsher. Age and mental ability of the victim are two strong aggravating factors. A number of other aggravating factors include:

  • Whether the perpetrator has prior sex trafficking offenses, or other forms of human trafficking
  • Whether the victim suffered bodily harm at any point
  • How long the victim was held in the situation, with anything exceeding 180 days incurring harsher penalties
  • Whether there were multiple victims
  • Whether the perpetrator abused their public official position

Finally, judges are implored not to accept too many mitigating factors and that they should not be tempted to reduce sentences. The punishment should be consistent with those of other serious sexual crimes, including rape. While fines can be imposed, they should not substitute other sanctions or imprisonment.

Sex Trafficking Statute of Limitations

Different states have different statutes of limitations on sex trafficking cases. All states agree that if the victim is under the age of 18 at the time of the offense happening, the statute will not start counting until that child reaches the age of 24.

Sex Trafficking Cases

  • It is believed that around 100,000 children are trafficked into this country each year. Some organizations believe this is a conservative estimate and place the figure closer to 300,000. The sex trafficking economy in this country is incredibly large. In places such as Atlanta, it is believed to be worth around $290 million per year. Some states do not have these laws in place, which means a minor who is trafficked will face prostitution charges if he or she comes forward. (New Republic)
  • Research has shown that the harsh penalties imposed on sex traffickers are not acting as a deterrent to the crime. It was also found that sex trafficking now equates to modern day slavery, and that some sex related behaviors impact beliefs about this. (News Northeastern)
  • LA County has seen a huge rise in human and sex trafficking cases as of late. It is believed that this is due to the fact that the police department has started a major crackdown on pimps. (Los Angeles Times)
  • National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month recently took place. This was an opportunity to highlight the national sex trafficking law enforcement task force.RI Government
  • In Connecticut, like everywhere else in the country, sex trafficking is considered a felony. However, in the past 10 years, not a single conviction has been secured for the crime. State officials have gathered together with other experts in order to find out why no convictions for sex trafficking have been secured since sex trafficking became a felony. The law was passed 10 years ago. It seems that the fact that minors involved in sex trafficking cases are treated as prostitutes is a large part of this problem. Law enforcement has been asked to focus more strongly on arresting and deterring pimps, encouraging children, some as young as 12, to come forward without fear of prosecution. (CT News Junkie)

Sex Trafficking Laws by State

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming

Quick Links & References

Geoffrey Nathan, Esq.

About Geoffrey Nathan, Esq.

Geoffrey G Nathan is a top federal crimes lawyer and Chief Editor of FederalCharges.com. He is a licensed attorney in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts since 1988, admitted to practice in both Federal and State courts. If you have questions about your federal case he can help by calling 877.472.5775.