Sex trafficking of children is considered a modern form of slavery. Perpetrators typically use force, fraud or coercion to control their victims, who are used for the purpose of engaging commercial sex acts. Several related crimes are covered by state and federal laws, which makes it illegal to perform criminal acts relating to human trafficking, including:
- kidnapping a child with the intention of selling her or him into slavery
- forced married via child sex trafficking
- profiteering from child sex trafficking or slavery
- transporting a child with the knowledge or intent that he or she will be held or sold as a slave
- selling a child into involuntary servitude
- removing, destroying, concealing, or confiscating a child's passport or other identity documents in order to deny travel privileges while trafficking them
- holding a child in peonage (debt slavery) whereby employers force people to pay off debts through work.
Human trafficking, slavery and sex trafficking of children or by force, fraud, or coercion has been illegal for more than a century, it continues to be a huge problem, particularly for undocumented immigrants and minors. According to the International Labor Organization, criminal rings see annual profits of in excess of $150 billion a year, and more there are estimated to be in excess of 21 million modern-day slaves.
When you are being investigated or charged for a sex trafficking crime, understanding the nature of the charges and their consequences is crucial. Charges of sex trafficking of children can have a devastating effect on a person's life, as it carries with it social stigma that will affect your personal life and home life, and it may cost you your job. Being found guilty of sex trafficking of children will likely result in a lengthy prison sentence, in addition to fines and being listed on the sex offenders register. Even if you are released from detention, you will likely remain on the register, and be expected to update your registration details on a regular basis. You will need an experienced Sexual Crimes Attorney who can guide you through this trying time.
US Code 18, Chapter 77 contains many federal human trafficking laws, as well as landmark legislation dating back to 2000, known as Trafficking Victims Protection Act. The Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act was introduced in 2014, and deals with the fight against sex trafficking of children in the foster care system. The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015 improves services for the victims of human trafficking and outlines criminal liability for individuals who use child sex trafficking victims for sex.
What is Sex Trafficking of Children and Exploitation?
According to the Federal Trafficking Victims Protection act, human trafficking is the act of recruiting, provision, transportation, and harboring of a child under the age of 18 for the purpose of a commercial act that is induced by fraud, coercion, or force. In some cases, human traffickers obtain people for the purpose of labor or services and subject them to involuntary servitude, slavery, debt bondage or peonage.
Domestic sex trafficking of children is when a US citizen of any lawful permanent resident under the age of eighteen years is sexually exploited for commercial reasons. Commercial sexual exploitation separates trafficking from other sex crimes, such as molestation, rape and assault. Commercial sex acts involve exchanging money or other valuables (clothes, food, shelter, drugs) in exchange for sex.
The definitions for the sex trafficking of children include both the interchangeable terms:
- Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC)
- Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST)
Federal law prohibits the prostitution of children, and knowingly trafficking children under the age of eighteen is a federal offense. By knowingly or recklessly disregarding the fact that the individual is a minor and engaging in commercial sex act is against the law. Many cases involve willful coercion using threats, lies and violence for the purpose of exploiting minors.
Therefore, it is unlawful to obtain and or offer a child and to cause the child to engage in any sexual activity in exchange for anything, including:
- in-kind favors
- or, personal benefits
Federal law also makes it a criminal offense for anyone to participate in business ventures that obtains children and uses them to engage in commercial sex acts.
While many people are under the impression that trafficking involves the movement of children across state lines or international borders, Section 1591 states that no proof is required of the victim or defendant crossing state lines or international borders. The same section states that it does not require proof of the defendant using threats, coercion, fraud or force to cause a minor to engage in commercial sex acts.
This section of the federal law is applicable to all American children, including U.S. citizens and residents prostituted in the US, as well as to foreign nationals who are brought here and forced into prostitution. Any person who attempts or even conspires to commit sex trafficking of children is subject to criminal investigation.
If a victim is younger than fourteen, or if the defendant used coercion, fraud or force, the penalty will range from fifteen years to life imprisonment. For victims aged between fourteen and seventeen, the perpetrator will face anything from ten years to life imprisonment. Anyone who is found guilty of obstructing or attempting to obstruct the enforcement of the statute will face up to twenty years in prison. In addition to a prison sentence, anyone who is convicted under the statute will have to pay damages to their victims for any losses incurred as a result of the crime.
The law (in Sections 2421 to 2423) also criminalizes a variety of related activities concerning the prostitution of children, including but not limited to transporting children and individuals across state lines for purposes relating to prostitution and other illegal sexual activities. These statutes will require proof that the minor did indeed cross state lines, and the penalty is ten years to life imprisonment.
According to section 2422, it is illegal to use communication means to entice, induce, coerce or persuade a minor to engage in prostitution or other illegal sexual activities, including U.S. Mail, Internet and mobile or landline phones. As such, an adult will make himself guilty of a federal crime by using text messages, email or chat rooms to persuade a child to meet with him or to engage in illegal sexual activities such as prostitution.
This statute also does not require proof that the victim or defendant crossed state lines for them to be found guilty of an offense with a minimum prison sentence of ten years, to life imprisonment.
Statute 2425 states that it is illegal for anyone to use the internet, telephones or the US Mail to knowingly transmit personal information of a child younger than 16 to entice, offer, solicit or encourage anyone to engage in a criminal sexual activity. Anyone who is found guilty of such an offense can face up to five years in prison. Personal information about minors that may not be shared, includes:
- the minor's name
- social security number
- residential address
- email address
- phone number
Legal Penalties for Sex Trafficking of Children by Force, Fraud, or Coercion
While state laws differ in terms of sex trafficking of children, the law continues to expand to include more definitions and tougher penalties for individuals convicted for child sex trafficking. It is not uncommon for convicted sex traffickers to face life imprisonment and sex offender registration.
Registered sex offenders have to:
- register each jurisdiction in which they live, work and attend school
- renew their registration regularly. Depending on the guidelines set at sentencing, it could be quarterly, twice a year or annually.
- disclose internet activity for the remainder of their lives.
Due to additional Penal Code Sections, prosecutors are now able to present more evidence in court, including sex crimes. This eliminates certain defenses, such as mistaking the age of the minor.
California Penal Code Section 236.1 defines human trafficking as someone who violates or deprives another person's personal liberty in order to:
- acquire force labor or services
- to sell or procure the person for commercial sex purposes
- or to obscenely exploit them.
A person's personal liberty can be deprived or violated in a legal sense through sustained, substantial restriction using:
- threats of personal injury of the victim or another individual
- or fraud.
In these circumstances, the victim would have to hold the reasonable belief that the person who makes the threat is likely to carry it out. Sex trafficking of children for the purpose of extortion, child pornography and pimping is closely related to this statute on the restriction of personal liberty. Other sexual offenses that relate to the deprivation of a person's personal liberty include:
- Enticing a minor to engage in prostitution
- Abducting a minor for prostitution
- Procurement of minors for lewd or lascivious acts
- Employing minors to participate in child pornography
- Transporting or distribution of child pornography
- Developing, printing, duplicating or exchanging child pornography
- Producing obscene live performances
- Advertising obscene materials
- Extortion or blackmail
State and federal laws govern the penalties for human trafficking convictions, and it also depends on the exact conviction. In most states, sex trafficking of children or by force, fraud, or coercion are considered felony offenses with harsh legal penalties.
Wrongful Sex Trafficking of Children by Force, Fraud, or Coercion Convictions
Child sex trafficking is a big problem in the US, especially in cities that:
- border on other countries
- are home to many foreigners
- have major airports
- have large international ports
It is easy to conceal child sex trafficking and other forms of human trafficking in busy cities with diverse cultures, as a child from a foreign country will not stand out from all the other nationalities. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for innocent individuals to become caught up in wrongful accusations of child sex trafficking.
In some cases, families willingly pay a smuggling fee to enter the United States illegally. They seek refuge from American families, and willingly work and live here. However, they may see an opportunity to exploit their American hosts. Alternatively, sex workers will also enter the country illegally, but willingly, and overzealous law enforcement and prosecutors will still consider them human trafficking victims. These allegations may help them to qualify for visas, as they have obtained victim status.
Just as human and child sex trafficking is a massive problem, wrongful allegations of child sex trafficking is a challenge that has already destroyed many American families. Child sex trafficking allegations are one of the most heinous crimes someone can be accused of, and the social stigma attached to such charges may never go away. It is important for people to understand that not everyone who is accused of child sex trafficking is in fact guilty, just as not everyone who is deemed a victim of human trafficking, is a victim.
Recently, marginal players - such as car hire companies, hotels and airlines - have been charged as equal participants in child sex trafficking cases, even when they are unaware of the crime in which they unknowingly participated. Such businesses are held responsible for failing to investigate the way in which their clients use their services.
Wrongful child sex trafficking charges can have a devastating effect on the life of someone who is not directly involved in the practice. Notoriety - even if you are acquitted or if charges are dropped - can accompany you for your entire life.
Prosecutors face a high burden in order to prove that someone is guilty of child sex trafficking, or that he or she was aware of the crime and intended to enable it. But even if the crime is never proven, it can still do severe damage to the life of the accused. In the event of conviction, penalties are steep.
Don't fall victim to wrongful sex trafficking of children or by force, fraud, or coercion charges. Call Sex Crimes Attorney today at 888-888-8888 to schedule a preliminary case review. We will inform you of your rights and help you mount a powerful defense.