Slavery and human trafficking are activities many would like to assume took place a long time ago and often in places far, far way. Despite the Constitution's Thirteenth Amendment eliminating slavery and involuntary servitude, people are still held against their will and forced into service or labor. The modern form of human trafficking often involves the sex trade and disproportionately impacts vulnerable populations, such as minors and undocumented immigrants. Federal criminal law defines human trafficking and sets punishments for slavery and associated acts. The following article provides an overview of federal human trafficking prosecutions.
Human Trafficking Laws
This article reviews the prohibitions on slavery and human trafficking found in 18 U.S. Code, Chapter 77. These are not the only federal laws relating to slavery and human trafficking. In addition to the criminal prohibitions found here, Congress also established the first-ever comprehensive legislation relating to trafficking victims and their protection in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000.
While Chapter 77 makes human trafficking and related activities crimes, Chapter 78 provides for government agencies, funding, and procedures intended to prevent trafficking. It's important to note that this area of law continues to expand and develop.
Additional legislation includes the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act of 2014, which seeks to reduce sex trafficking among youth in the foster care system, and the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015, which strengthens services available for victims of human trafficking and establishes criminal liability for buyers of commercial sex from victims of trafficking as well as a survivor-led U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking.
Associated Criminal Acts
In addition to outlawing human trafficking and slavery, the federal law also prohibits and punishes a number of acts associated with human trafficking. These include:
The details of the offense determine the punishment those convicted of these offenses may face.
Human Trafficking and Slavery Penalties
The penalties for human trafficking are severe. A conviction for holding a person in peonage carries potential fines and a maximum prison term of 20 years. If a death results or the violation included kidnapping, sexual abuse, or other aggravating factors, the maximum punishment increases to life imprisonment.
Sex trafficking of children, or by fraud, force, or coercion carry enhanced penalties. Prison sentences for these offenses carry a potential life sentence and a minimum of 10 years in prison (or more, depending on the details of the offense and the victim).
The law also prohibits and punishes attempts and conspiracies relating to human trafficking. It orders the forfeit of any property used in violation of the law as well as any proceeds from the act. The law includes clauses for the mandatory payment of restitution to the victim for the full amount of their losses, as determined by the court.
Get a Free Initial Case Assessment
Human trafficking charges are punished severely and can include prison terms, fines, and restitution. A sophisticated legal defense can help. Contact a local attorney for a free initial case assessment to learn how they can help plan your defense.