If you recruit or transport people into the United States for prostitution or cheap labor, you can be arrested and charged in federal court. Human trafficking causes severe trauma to the victims. For this reason, prosecutors are quick to file serious charges against individuals accused of human trafficking.

When handling cases of sex trafficking and forced labor, the judges in federal court have little remorse for the offenders. The penalties for a conviction under these statutes include a lengthy prison sentence and substantial fines. Additionally, the offender could suffer severe collateral consequences from the conviction.


Understanding the nature of your criminal charges will help you build a defense against them. Having a knowledgeable lawyer by your side is important when you fight human trafficking charges. If you or a loved one faces federal charges for human trafficking in California, you will benefit from our expert legal guidance at Sex Crimes Attorney.

Forced Labor

Forced labor occurs when someone is coerced into working against their wishes. Under Section 1589 of the US Code, obtaining labor from another person by force or fraud is a crime. These regulations ensure that all workers are treated fairly and that their working conditions are conducive.

Depending on the circumstances of your case, you can be charged with additional crimes like kidnapping for slavery. Additionally, you could be charged with obstructing the laws to prevent forced labor.

A victim of forced labor may be held against their will through:

  • Force and violence. People are held by force if you use physical restraints or other violent ways to prevent them from leaving.
  • Deception. Most victims of forced labor are children. Minors can be easily manipulated or deceived to prevent them from leaving or reporting the crime.
  • Threats. Perpetrators of forced labor and human trafficking can threaten to harm a victim or their family for failure to comply with their labor demands.

Although anyone can be a victim of forced labor, the following groups of individuals are more vulnerable to this type of exploitation:

  • Undocumented immigrants. Illegal immigrants could be victims of forced labor. Failure to report forced labor is fueled by a fear of deportation.
  • Individuals with a language barrier. An individual who does not understand English or any other language commonly spoken in the US may be vulnerable to forced labor. The inability to express themselves may prevent them from reporting the crime.
  • Individuals who are buried in debt. A person who is deep in debt can easily be forced into labor to pay for the debts they owe.
  • Mentally and physically disabled people. Disabled people may lack the resources or capacity to defend themselves from human trafficking or forced labor.
  • Children. Minors are a vulnerable group in society. A child can be easily manipulated to work for little or no labor.
  • Individuals with no family support. Some people are persuaded into human trafficking due to a lack of family support.

The most common forms of forced labor occur when a worker is threatened with bodily harm for failing to comply. This could include physical restraints or movement restrictions. Other indicators of forced labor include:

  • Debt bondage. Sometimes a worker may be fraudulently charged for recruitment. Such individuals may be forced to work until they pay the debt. Since the wages of forced labor are often very low, it may take a while for the victim to pay the debt.
  • Wage withholding. Some employers will hold wages or fail to pay until the employees meet certain conditions. Since most of these conditions are unreasonable, the employees may never meet them. Hence, they do not receive the payment.
  • Isolation. When you hold a worker against their will and prevent them from leaving, you can be charged with forced labor under USC 1589.
  • Deception. In cases where employers do not understand the language, it may be easy to manipulate them into thinking that they do not deserve breaks or time off. Employers who engage in such acts prey on the fact that workers do not understand their rights.

If you are arrested and charged with committing forced labor, the prosecution can introduce other charges in your case. Some of these charges may include enticement to slavery and kidnapping. The penalties for forced labor are severe. After a conviction under U.S.C. 1589, you could face a sentence of twenty years in federal prison.

Sex Trafficking

Under U.S.C. 7102, sex trafficking involves transporting people across international borders for sexual activity. While all types of human trafficking are illegal, sex trafficking is a serious crime charged in federal court. In sex trafficking cases, the victims are forced to engage in prostitution to pay an alleged debt for entering the country.

Children are a vulnerable group in society. For this reason, children under eighteen easily fall victim to sex trafficking. Sex trafficking of minors occurs when you transport children with the intent to use them for commercial sex work. You can be convicted under U.S.C. 1591 if you directly engage in trafficking. Additionally, individuals who reap financial benefits from this crime can be charged under this statute.

The penalties you face for sex trafficking under federal law vary depending on the following factors:

  • Your level of involvement in the crime. A person can be charged with sex trafficking for various reasons. If the prosecutor proves you engaged in direct trafficking, you could face up to twenty years in federal prison. However, you could be sentenced to life in federal prison if you are charged with assaulting the victims.
  • The victim's age. Sex trafficking of adults occurs when you use violence or threats to force the victims into the act. If you are convicted of trafficking children for sex, you could face life imprisonment.

If you or a loved one faces charges for sex trafficking, their freedom and future may be hanging in the balance. Therefore, it is important that you hire and retain a skilled sex crime defense lawyer.

Involuntary Servitude

Under U.S.C. 1584, holding another person for mandatory labor is a crime. Prosecution for involuntary servitude requires the prosecutor to prove that you used any of these means to force the victim into unpaid labor:

  • Restraining the victim physically.
  • Threatening to harm the victim for failure to comply with your demands.
  • Extorting the victim.
  • Destroying or concealing the victim’s immigration documents to prevent them from leaving.
  • You used violence and force to coerce the victim into working for no pay.

If the victim is a child, the prosecution will only need to prove that you received something valuable for forcing the child into unpaid labor. The difference between voluntary and involuntary servitude depends on the specific circumstances.

 If you prevent workers from leaving when they want to, you can be arrested and charged under U.S.C. 1584.

Investigations for Human Trafficking

Different agencies in the United States aggressively investigate sex trafficking and forced labor. If law enforcement officers suspect you are involved in these criminal acts, you may face thorough investigations and prosecution. Investigations into human trafficking begin through:

Tips from the Public

Most people who are trafficked for labor or prostitution are placed in secluded areas where they cannot leave. However, when the public notices that you may be involved in the crime, they could anonymously report the issue to law enforcement officers.

Due to the extreme effects of human trafficking on the victims, law enforcement officers quickly respond to tips. In this case, the police could launch undercover operations to watch your activities and arrest you in the act.

Calls from Victims

Human traffickers use different tactics to prevent victims from reporting the crime. Sometimes, victims of sex trafficking may have the chance to call the hotline and report their situation. When allegations of trafficking are reported to the different agencies that handle the matter, the FBI and other investigative agencies may begin operations to confirm the allegations.

Referral from Law Enforcement Agencies

Some individuals act as police informants to provide more information about criminal acts. In this case, the police enforcement agencies will forward the matter for further investigation.

Victim Recovery Operations

The main goal of human trafficking investigations is to rescue the victims. Therefore, when there is a report of victims undergoing forced labor or sex trafficking, the FBI will center its investigations on victim recovery. After the victims have been saved, operations to identify and arrest the individuals involved in the crime continue.

For most human trafficking crimes, the prosecution must prove the following facts to establish your guilt:

  • You violated another person's liberty.
  • You acted with the intention of obtaining forced labor or other services from the victim.

Aggravating Factors for Human Trafficking Sentencing

An aggravating factor is a circumstance that increases your penalties after a conviction. Sex trafficking, involuntary servitude, and forced labor fall under human trafficking. The penalties for a federal conviction are severe.

The age of the victims in your case can impact your sentencing. Additionally, your level of involvement in the crime can impact your penalties. Some of the factors that could affect your sentencing under these statutes include the following:

  • You have a pattern of continuous violations. Your criminal history is critical when you are charged with human trafficking.
  • The victim suffered serious bodily injuries. Trafficking for labor or sex may involve brutal acts like restraints and being locked up in small spaces. If the victim of your human trafficking acts suffered a serious injury, you could face harsher penalties. Sometimes, the federal prosecutor will file additional charges related to the injuries suffered by the victim.
  • The crime resulted in death. Sex trafficking and trafficking for labor are serious offenses. The potential consequences of a conviction are severe and life-changing. Therefore, individuals involved in the crime may use different ways to escape justice. You could face a life sentence in federal prison if someone dies during the trafficking.
  • Your crime involved multiple victims. Human trafficking for labor or sex may be committed against one or multiple victims. If you face federal charges for human trafficking, you may face penalties for each victim you have trafficked. Therefore, you could serve a lengthy prison sentence if there are multiple victims.
  • You are a public official. Being a public official means that the state has bestowed power on you. Engaging in sex trafficking or other federal sex crimes as a public official means that you are abusing the power given to you. Public officials who face human trafficking charges face harsher penalties.
  • The victim was held for more than 180 days. The longer a victim is held for labor or sex, the more damage you cause them. If you hold a person for sex or labor for up to six months, you will face a longer prison sentence after your federal conviction.

There is no time limit for reporting and prosecuting human trafficking cases. The prosecutor can file charges against you even if you committed the crime long ago. In addition to incarceration and fines, the TVPA provides guidelines on additional consequences for individuals found guilty of sex trafficking, forced labor, and involuntary servitude. They include:

  • Mandatory compensation. Victims of human trafficking may suffer serious injuries and losses from your actions. If you are found guilty of human trafficking. The court may mandate that you compensate the victim for the full amount she suffered. This may include the gross income for the labor services they provided.
  • Property Forfeiture. The federal court is mandated to forfeit any property intended for use to enable human trafficking activities. Additionally, if you have acquired property using the proceeds of human trafficking acts, the court can seize it.
  • Civil remedy. A victim of trafficking can file a civil action against you for the part you played in their trafficking. This allows them to recover compensation for the wrongful acts against them and reasonable attorney fees.
  • Additional Fraud charges. Most criminal offenders traffic people to the United States using false documents. If you supplied the victims of human trafficking with false travel documents, you would face an additional 25 years in federal prison for fraud.

Collateral Consequences of a Federal Sex Crime Conviction

Most criminal offenses are prosecuted under the law. However, serious crimes like involuntary servitude, sex trafficking, and forced labor will attract a conviction in federal court. A conviction for these offenses attracts serious criminal penalties. However, the consequences of your federal conviction will go beyond prison time and fines.

Like your convictions in state court, your federal conviction will appear on your record. Having a federal sex crime conviction on your record can impact your life in the following ways:


Sometimes, employers discriminate against job applicants with a criminal record. You must report a conviction when applying for a job unless the conviction is expunged. The employer may find your record during a background check even if you fail to report it. Having a federal sex crime conviction can ruin your employment prospects and leave you with financial struggles.

Loss of a Professional License

For some professions, you must hold a professional license to practice. Federal crimes like sex trafficking can taint your reputation and change how people relate to you. The professional body will check your criminal background if you apply for a license to work as a:

  • Nurse,
  • Lawyer,
  • Physician,
  • Dentist,
  • Teacher.

You may be denied a professional license if you have a federal sex conviction. In cases where you already have a license, your licensing board can suspend it for a human trafficking conviction.


For immigrants in the United States, deportation is sometimes a consequence of a criminal conviction. If you are convicted of sex trafficking or forced labor in federal court, ICE could deport you. Being deported means that you will be removed forcefully from the United States. If you are deported, you will lose your livelihood in the US.

Inability to Enroll in the Military

You must undergo extreme scrutiny before joining the military. Additionally, you must be honest about your criminal history during the application. If you are convicted of human trafficking, you cannot serve in the military.

Ruined Reputation

Being charged with human trafficking is traumatizing. Mostly, the law enforcement officers and the court assume your guilt even before you enter the courtroom. Even when you are not found guilty, a federal sex crime charge can ruin your reputation. When people change how they interact with you, your self-esteem may be ruined forever.

Defense Against Human Trafficking Charges

Facing charges for sex trafficking, involuntary servitude, and forced labor is challenging. This is because of the aggression used by investigators to pursue the federal charges. You can use the following defenses to fight the case:

Lack of a Probable Cause

Law enforcement officers must have probable cause to arrest someone for human trafficking. Additionally, the prosecutor must believe that you committed the crime before filing charges against you. Unfortunately, police officers quickly jump to conclusions when they receive information about your alleged involvement in human trafficking.

From your first interaction with the officers, they will likely treat you as a suspect. Additionally, the officers may quickly arrest and detain you to prevent you from escaping. You can fight your federal trafficking charges by arguing that the police did not have probable cause to arrest you.

False Allegations

The crimes that fall under human trafficking have severe potential consequences. Unfortunately, you can be falsely accused of the offense. Sometimes, false accusations stem from a mistaken or wrongful identification by the victim. Being a victim of human trafficking is challenging.

The victims are harassed and sometimes treated violently. In these tense situations, it may be challenging for the victims to capture the faces of the perpetrators correctly. Another reason you could be falsely accused is when the actual perpetrator of the crime points the finger at you to avoid liability for their actions.

Insufficient Evidence

All the elements of your crime must be clear before you are convicted of the offense. Each human trafficking offense has specific elements. The allegation that you engaged in sex trafficking, forced labor, or involuntary servitude must be backed by sufficient evidence. You can challenge the allegations and avoid a conviction if insufficient evidence supports the case.

Illegal Search and Seizure

Sometimes, investigations into human trafficking will arise from an anonymous tip or call to the anti-trafficking hotline. When investigation agents receive this information, they may quickly begin the investigation by searching your home or property. Most of the time, the officers have no time to obtain a warrant.

You have a right against unlawful searches and seizures. A police search is considered illegal if there is no warrant. Law enforcement officers obtain a warrant to search your home from the court. Additionally, searching beyond the scope of the search warrant is illegal. If your human trafficking case is based on evidence from an illegal search, you can fight the charges by seeking a dismissal of the evidence.

Find a Competent Sex Crime Defense Attorney Near Me

If you transport other people into the United States for sex or unpaid labor, you can be arrested and charged with sex trafficking or forced labor. These types of crimes are often charged under federal law, which is very strict. The stakes are high for defendants facing a federal sex crime charge. This is because law enforcement officers are aggressive when investigating the charges.

The federal court's mandatory minimum sentences and other serious penalties can threaten your future. Fortunately, not all individuals under investigation for human trafficking suffer a conviction for the crime. With an aggressive defense, you can fight to avoid the consequences of a conviction. Federal laws are very complex. Therefore, seeking legal guidance to fight your federal charges is critical.

At Sex Crimes Attorney, we understand a federal conviction's impact on your life. Our skilled attorneys will evaluate the facts of your case and build a personalized defense to ensure the best possible outcome. Contact us at 888-666-8480 from any location in California and allow us to guide you through your case.