Sex Trafficking Charges & Penalties by State

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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

Sex trafficking involves the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act. The laws and penalties for sex trafficking vary by state:

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

Alabama

Under Code of Alabama Section 13A-6-152:

  • Sex trafficking is considered a Class A felony, punishable by 10 to 99 years or life in prison.

Alaska

Under Alaska Stat. Section 11.66.130:

  • Sex trafficking is a Class A felony, with penalties including up to 99 years in prison.

Arizona

Under Arizona Revised Statutes Section 13-1308:

  • Sex trafficking is a Class 2 felony, punishable by up to 35 years in prison.

Arkansas

Under Arkansas Code Section 5-18-103:

  • Sex trafficking is considered a Class Y felony, punishable by 10 to 40 years or life in prison.

California

Under California Penal Code Section 236.1:

  • Sex trafficking of a minor is a felony, with penalties of 15 years to life in prison.

Colorado

Under Colorado Revised Statutes Section 18-3-504:

  • Sex trafficking is a Class 3 felony, which can lead to 4 to 12 years in prison.

Connecticut

Under Connecticut General Statutes Section 53a-192a:

  • Sex trafficking is considered a Class B felony, punishable by 1 to 20 years in prison.

Delaware

Under Delaware Code Title 11, Section 787:

  • Sex trafficking is a Class B felony, with a potential sentence of up to 25 years in prison.

Florida

Under Florida Statutes Section 787.06:

  • Sex trafficking is a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

Georgia

Under Georgia Code Section 16-5-46:

  • Sex trafficking is a felony, with penalties up to life in prison or a minimum of 25 years.

Hawaii

Under Hawaii Revised Statutes Section 712-1202:

  • Sex trafficking is a Class A felony, which includes a potential 20-year prison sentence.

Idaho

Under Idaho Code Section 18-8602:

  • Sex trafficking is a felony, punishable by up to 25 years in prison.

Illinois

Under Illinois Compiled Statutes 720 ILCS 5/10-9:

  • Sex trafficking is a Class 1 felony, with penalties of 4 to 15 years in prison.

Indiana

Under Indiana Code Section 35-42-3.5-1:

  • Sex trafficking is a Level 3 felony, punishable by 3 to 16 years in prison.

Iowa

Under Iowa Code Section 710A.2:

  • Sex trafficking is a Class C felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Kansas

Under Kansas Statutes Section 21-5426:

  • Sex trafficking is a severity level 1 person felony, which could result in a life sentence.

Kentucky

Under Kentucky Revised Statutes Section 529.100:

  • Sex trafficking of an adult is a Class C felony, punishable by 5 to 10 years in prison.

Louisiana

Under Louisiana Revised Statutes Section 14:46.2:

  • Sex trafficking is punishable by 15 to 50 years in prison, and if the victim is under 21, life imprisonment.

Maine

Under Maine Revised Statutes Title 17-A, Section 852:

  • Aggravated sex trafficking is a Class A crime, punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

Maryland

Under Maryland Code, Criminal Law Section 11-303:

  • Human trafficking for sexual purposes is a felony, punishable by up to 25 years in prison.

Massachusetts

Under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 265, Section 50:

  • Sex trafficking of a minor is punishable by up to life in prison.

Michigan

Under Michigan Compiled Laws Section 750.462j:

  • Sex trafficking is a felony, with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

Minnesota

Under Minnesota Statutes Section 609.322:

  • Sex trafficking is a felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison for first-degree convictions.

Mississippi

Under Mississippi Code Section 97-3-54.1:

  • Sex trafficking is punishable by up to 40 years in prison, depending on the victim’s age and circumstances.

Missouri

Under Missouri Revised Statutes Section 566.209:

  • Sex trafficking is a felony, punishable by 5 to 20 years in prison, or life imprisonment in severe cases.

Montana

Under Montana Code Annotated Section 45-5-306:

  • Sex trafficking is punishable by 2 to 100 years in prison, depending on aggravating factors.

Nebraska

Under Nebraska Revised Statutes Section 28-830:

  • Sex trafficking is a Class II felony, with a penalty of 1 to 50 years in prison.

Nevada

Under Nevada Revised Statutes Section 201.300:

  • Sex trafficking is punishable by life imprisonment with the possibility of parole after 10 years, depending on aggravating factors.

New Hampshire

Under New Hampshire Revised Statutes Section 633:7:

  • Sex trafficking is a Class B felony, punishable by up to 7 years in prison.

New Jersey

Under New Jersey Statutes Section 2C:13-8:

  • Sex trafficking is considered a crime of the first degree, with a typical sentence range of 10 to 20 years in prison.

New Mexico

Under New Mexico Statutes Section 30-52-1:

  • Sex trafficking is a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

New York

Under New York Penal Law Section 230.34:

  • Sex trafficking is a Class B felony, punishable by up to 25 years in prison.

North Carolina

Under North Carolina General Statutes Section 14-43.11:

  • Human trafficking, including for sexual purposes, is a Class C felony, punishable by 44 to 182 months in prison.

North Dakota

Under North Dakota Century Code Section 12.1-41-02:

  • Sex trafficking is a Class A felony if the victim is a minor, with a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.

Ohio

Under Ohio Revised Code Section 2905.32:

  • Sex trafficking is a first-degree felony, with penalties including life imprisonment without parole for the most serious offenses.

Oklahoma

Under Oklahoma Statutes Title 21, Section 1114:

  • Sex trafficking is punishable by up to life imprisonment, depending on factors like the victim’s age and the presence of aggravating circumstances.

Oregon

Under Oregon Revised Statutes Section 163.375:

  • Sex trafficking in the first degree is classified as a Class A felony, which can result in up to 20 years in prison.

Pennsylvania

Under Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Title 18, Section 3121:

  • Sex trafficking is a first-degree felony, with penalties including a maximum of 20 years in prison.

Rhode Island

Under Rhode Island General Laws Section 11-37-2:

  • First-degree sexual assault can result in up to life imprisonment.

South Carolina

Under South Carolina Code Section 16-3-652:

  • First-degree criminal sexual conduct is punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

South Dakota

Under South Dakota Codified Laws Section 22-22-1:

  • Sex trafficking in the first degree is a Class C felony, punishable by up to life imprisonment.

Tennessee

Under Tennessee Code Annotated Section 39-13-503:

  • Aggravated sex trafficking carries a sentence of 15 to 60 years in prison, with fines up to $50,000.

Texas

Under Texas Penal Code Section 22.011:

  • Sex trafficking is generally a second-degree felony, with increased penalties if the victim is under 14 years of age or elderly, potentially leading to life imprisonment.

Utah

Under Utah Code Section 76-5-402:

  • Aggravated sex trafficking is a first-degree felony, with a minimum sentence of 15 years to life in prison.

Vermont

Under Vermont Statutes Title 13, Section 3252:

  • Aggravated sex trafficking can result in a life sentence, depending on the severity and circumstances.

Virginia

Under Virginia Code Section 18.2-61:

  • Sex trafficking is a Class 4 felony, with penalties including life imprisonment for particularly severe cases.

Washington

Under Revised Code of Washington Section 9A.44.040:

  • Sex trafficking in the first degree is a Class A felony, punishable by up to life in prison or a definite term of years.

West Virginia

Under West Virginia Code Section 61-8B-3:

  • Sex trafficking in the first degree carries a penalty of 15 to 35 years in prison.

Wisconsin

Under Wisconsin Statutes Section 940.225:

  • First-degree sex trafficking can lead to up to 40 years in prison or life imprisonment if the assault results in great bodily harm.

Wyoming

Under Wyoming Statutes Section 6-2-302:

  • First-degree sex trafficking is punishable by up to 50 years in prison.

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