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Human Trafficking and Slavery

Slavery and human trafficking are activities many would like to assume took place a long time ago. However, despite the Constitution's Thirteenth Amendment eliminating slavery, 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 slavery, establishing punishments for these and associated acts. The following article provides an overview of federal human trafficking and slavery laws.

Human Trafficking and Slavery Laws

The prohibitions on slavery and human trafficking are found in the U.S. Code. These are not the only federal laws relating to slavery and human trafficking, but they address slavery, involuntary servitude, forced labor, labor trafficking and sex 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 the U.S. code section cited above 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:

  • Luring or enticing a person to go onboard a vessel or any other place with the intention that they be made or held as a slave.
  • Kidnapping or carrying away a person with the intent to hold or sell them into slavery
  • Transporting a person with the knowledge or intent that the person be held or sold as a slave
  • Sale of a person into involuntary servitude.
  • Destruction, concealment, removal, or confiscation of a person's passport or other documents with the intent to traffic them or for the purpose of restricting or preventing their travel.
  • Profiting from peonage, slavery, or trafficking in persons.

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 in a federal prison. 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 Legal Help With Human Trafficking or Slavery Charges

Human trafficking charges are punished very severely and can include prison terms, fines, and restitution. A sophisticated legal defense can help you defend against these or other criminal charges. Contact an experienced, local criminal defense attorney today to learn how they can help plan your defense.

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