Human trafficking is a crime commonly associated with slavery. Human trafficking also involves the illegal sale of human beings for forced labor, commercial purposes, or human exploitation. Every year, the federal government reports thousands of investigations and prosecutions for human trafficking, mainly labor trafficking and sex trafficking. If you or your loved one is being investigated for human trafficking, you need the services of an experienced attorney. The attorney should have vast experience in handling human trafficking cases in federal court. You can count on the Virginia Criminal Attorney to help you create a viable defense to fight human trafficking charges.

Elements Of The Crime

For the prosecutor to accuse you of human trafficking, it should be evident that you transported or aided in human trafficking. You will face charges even if you claim to have had the victim’s consent. You can face human trafficking charges if the prosecutor proves that you had the intent or you were aware that the victim would be subjected to forced labor or other activities like prostitution.

It should also be evident that you benefited financially or obtained anything of worth by participating in an activity that ushered the participant into forced services or forced labor. Only an attorney knowledgeable about the federal slavery laws and the Virginia sex crimes can understand how these offenses are prosecuted.

Human Trafficking Explained

Human trafficking is an illegal process through which people are maintained or placed in exploitative situations for economic gain. Human trafficking may occur within a country and may also involve moving the victims across borders. People, including men, women, and children, are trafficked for many purposes, including exploitative or forced labor in farms, factories, and private households. Other objectives of human trafficking include forced marriage and sexual exploitation. Trafficking is prevalent in many states across the U.S., Virginia included.

Understanding why human trafficking occurs has improved over time, and crime has become more prevalent. However, securing ample and reliable information about the numbers and the patterns of human trafficking is still a challenge. Some of the underlying causes of human trafficking include:

  • Growing demand for cheap and disempowered labor
  • Inequalities between and within countries
  • Restrictive immigration policies

Other factors like discrimination, violence, and poverty increase people’s vulnerability to human trafficking.

The issue of human trafficking has a long history. The international efforts to curb human trafficking can be traced back to at least a century, even before the birth of the current human rights system. However, human trafficking has become a significant concern in the past decade, which has seen the development of a comprehensive framework to curb the practice. There has been a change in the way international communities view human trafficking. There has also been a change in expectations of how governments should address the issue of human trafficking.

Important Considerations Regarding Human Trafficking

Traditionally, human trafficking was mainly associated with the movement of women and girls for sexual exploitation. However, trafficking can affect women, men, and children and involves diverse exploitative practices, not limited to sexual exploitation. According to the definition of human trafficking, it is clear that women, men, boys, and girls, can all be victims of trafficking.

Human trafficking does not require the crossing of a country or an international border. Trafficking can be either internal or inter-border. It is possible for human trafficking to occur within a single country or even within a single state, including the victim's own country.

Human trafficking is different from migrant smuggling. Any form of illegal facilitated movement across an international border for economic gain or profit is a form of migrant smuggling. Migrant smuggling may include abusive treatment or deception. However, the main aim of migrant smuggling is to profit from the movement and not to exploit the victims, as in the case of human trafficking.

It is important to note that human trafficking does not always involve movement. In the definition of human trafficking, movement is just one of the elements in which trafficking can be achieved. Other elements of trafficking include receiving or harboring a victim, which means that trafficking does not just involve moving a victim into a situation of exploitation. You may face human trafficking charges if you maintain a person in a situation of suffering.

A victim cannot consent to human trafficking. According to the international human rights law, consent is irrelevant in a situation where you take a person’s freedom away. Consent is irrelevant because trafficking is usually achieved through coercion, deception, force, or other prohibited practices. Therefore, if you face human trafficking charges in Virginia, you cannot use the victim's consent as a defense.

Relationship Between Human Rights Laws And Human Trafficking

There are well-established links between human rights and human trafficking. Human rights laws are against certain practices like forced marriage, forced labor, illegal, arbitrary detention, and the sexual exploitation of women and children. Human rights laws champion the right to leave and return to one's country and the freedom of movement. Some of the human rights laws that are most relevant to human trafficking are:

  • The prohibition of discriminating a person based on color, race, sex, language, religion, political opinion, national origin, birth, status, property, or any other status
  • The right to liberty and security
  • The right to life
  • The right not to be subjected to servitude, slavery, bonded labor, and forced labor
  • The right not to be subjected to cruelty, torture, inhumanity, punishment, or degrading treatment
  • A right to be free from gender violence
  • Freedom of movement
  • Freedom of association
  • A right to the highest level of attainable physical or mental health
  • A right to favorable and just conditions at work
  • The right to a reasonable standard of living
  • Children’s right to special protection
  • The right to social security

The relevance of human rights laws will apply to different stages in the human trafficking title. Most human rights laws are relevant in the causes of human trafficking. In many human trafficking offenses in Virginia, it is common for one of the following to apply:

  • Debt bondage or bonded labor revolves around the repayment of a loan or services whereby the agreement is not well defined for the victim. This often results in the victim performing work whose length and quality are much greater than the amount of money owed or the value of the trafficker’s service that the victim received.
  • Transporting undocumented or illegal workers to bypass the United States Immigration law is a form of human trafficking. In most cases, trafficking and bonded labor go hand-in-hand.
  • An alleged perpetrator may engage in sex trafficking of women and children if they force a victim into the miserable situation and then makes them engage in prostitution, performing pornographic films or videos, dancing in strip clubs, and other forms of involuntary sexual services. The typical victims of sex trafficking include runaway teens, refugees, drug addicts, and homeless people.

If you commit a human trafficking offense, you will face other accompanying charges like a conspiracy. You could also face additional charges for kidnapping, coercion, fraud, theft, forgery, and drug possession. If you have an aggressive criminal defense attorney, the prosecutor may offer you a plea bargain, whereby you plead guilty to a lesser crime.

Identification Of Victims Of Human Trafficking

Victims of human trafficking are often invisible and hard to identify. Most times, victims of trafficking are mistaken for smuggled and illegal immigrants. The failure to identify trafficked persons often result in the denial of the person’s legal rights. A trafficked person will have limited access to their rights if they are misidentified as a smuggled or irregular immigrant or not identified at all.

Whenever victims of human trafficking break free from their traffickers, they are often in a situation of great vulnerability and insecurity. Most of them are both physically and emotionally traumatized. They have little, if any, means of subsistence, and most of them are afraid of retaliation.

The state has several duties with regard to a trafficked person:

  • Moving the trafficked person to a place of safety, away from exploitation
  • Attending to the trafficked person’s immediate medical needs
  • Finding out if the trafficked person is under any risk of retaliation or intimidation

People Who Are Most Prone To Human Trafficking

People who are most vulnerable to human trafficking in the United States include:

  • Homeless and runaway youths
  • Children in foster care, child welfare, and juvenile justice systems
  • Alaska natives and American Indians
  • Unaccompanied children
  • People with low literacy and limited English proficiency
  • Migrant laborers, including undocumented workers and participants in visa programs
  • Foreign national domestic workers, working in diplomatic households
  • People with disability
  • Gay, lesbian, bisexual, intersex, and transgender people

Human Trafficking And Social Media

The prevalent use of social media has seen an increase in human trafficking and sex trafficking. Modern technology makes it easy for perpetrators of human trafficking to connect with victims online. Human and sex traffickers have numerous options for contacting their targets.

Other common choices for human traffickers and sex traffickers include dating apps. These platforms provide seamless access to young and vulnerable people.

The Federal Crime Of Human Trafficking

Any form of human trafficking is illegal and attracts hefty penalties. The crime is particularly severe if it involves sex trafficking. Federal prosecutors are incredibly aggressive in investigating and pursuing convictions involving human and sex trafficking. Federal law, 18 U.S.C. 1581-1597 outlines the crime of human trafficking while federal law 22 U.S.C. 7102 outlines the crime of sex trafficking.

The 18 U.S.C. 1581 makes it a crime to engage in human trafficking and other crimes. This statute also describes the applicable legal punishment for any person selling people, sex trafficking, or forcing another person to perform labor. The penalties for human trafficking under this statute are severe and may include life imprisonment in federal prison.

According to 18 U.S.C. 1583, any person who kidnaps another person for slavery may face a penalty of up to 20 years in prison. As outlined by 18 U.S.C. 1584, a defendant who holds someone or sells them into involuntary servitude may be subject to imprisonment of up to 20 years. If the victim suffers significant bodily injury or dies, the defendant could be subject to life imprisonment in federal prison. Life imprisonment in federal prison may also apply if the human trafficking crime involves sexual abuse or kidnapping.

Federal law 22 U.S.C. 7102 makes sex trafficking a crime. This statute defines sex trafficking as a commercial sex act induced by fraud, force, recruitment, coercion, transportation, harboring, or obtaining someone for labor or services. This statute prohibits coercing another person to subject them to peonage, involuntary servitude, slavery, or debt bondage.

As outlined by the Mann Act enacted by Congress in 1910, transporting people across state lines is a federal offense. It is also a federal offense to coerce someone to travel across state lines to engage in prostitution. Any person who participates in human trafficking will face prosecution under the Mann Act, and this type of federal offense attracts significant penalties.

Most human trafficking cases prosecuted under federal law involve recruiting individuals from foreign countries and bringing them into the United States by promising them employment opportunities in the U.S. The human traffickers help the victims gain entry into the United States illegally by assisting them to avoid the immigration agents at the border.

After getting the victims into the U.S., the traffickers provide them with some form of employment, telling them that they have to work to pay the expenses of getting them into the country. The victims have to work until they settle their debts in full. However, because their wages are too low, the agents can barely pay the amount the traffickers seek from them in full.

In cases of sex trafficking, the traffickers force the victims to engage in prostitution to pay the alleged outstanding debt. Most victims of sex trafficking are often underage girls who are forced to work in brothels while the traffickers maintain control over the girls’ activities.

You should consult a criminal defense lawyer who understands federal laws on human trafficking and sex trafficking if you are under federal investigation for the crime. The attorney will review all the details of your accusations and help you weigh your legal options.

International Treaties To Curb Human Trafficking

Several international treaties exist to stop human trafficking offenses. For example, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) was passed in 2000. This federal statute seeks to protect victims of human trafficking and recommends severe penalties for any person convicted of human trafficking. If you violate the human trafficking laws, the prosecutor can also charge you under RICO (Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization). The TVPA gives the judge the discretion to require a defendant to pay restitution to the human trafficking victims. The act also gives victims of human trafficking the right to pursue a civil lawsuit against the defendant and seek compensation for their damages.

The Punishment For Human Trafficking Under Virginia Law

Virginia law prosecutes human trafficking as a sex crime under the statute that makes it a crime to take, detain, or confine a person for prostitution. Therefore, the penalties for human trafficking are pretty straightforward. Human trafficking is a class 4 Felony, punishable by imprisonment of two to ten years in prison. A victim may also face a possible fine of up to $100,000. A sex trafficking offense may attract additional penalties, usually felony penalties with severe penalties.

Under federal law, the punishment for human trafficking may range from a few years' imprisonment to life imprisonment. Currently, the U.S. charges human trafficking under laws that govern Homeland Security, especially if the trafficking involves illegal immigration. If you are facing human trafficking charges, the penalties could be detrimental. You should contact an experienced attorney immediately after the prosecutor accuses you of the crime.

Because human trafficking cases fall under federal jurisdiction, most of them are prosecuted under federal courts. Prosecution in a federal court is different from state-level prosecution. This explains why it is essential to retain an attorney with experience defending cases in federal courts whenever you face human trafficking cases.

Penalties For Federal Tax Trafficking

After the conviction of a federal sex trafficking crime, the penalties will vary depending on several factors. For example, the penalties will depend on the extent to which you engaged in sex trafficking. For example, the federal prosecutor may prove that you only played a role in preparing to send a sex trafficking victim to the set destination. In this case, you could face imprisonment of up to seven years in federal prison. However, if the prosecutor proves that you were directly involved in the sex trafficking crime, you could face imprisonment of up to 20 years in federal prison.

You could face life imprisonment in federal prison if the sex trafficking crime involves a situation where you sexually assaulted the victim or forced the victim to engage in sexual activity against their will.

How To Fight Federal Human And Sex Trafficking Charges

Sex trafficking and human trafficking are modern-day forms of the slave trade. Therefore, federal prosecutors are aggressive in handling these offenses, often recommending harsh penalties. In the federal criminal justice system, sex trafficking cases rank among the most severe sexual-related crimes. The mere allegation that you engaged in sex trafficking could have detrimental consequences. However, like all other criminal charges, the prosecutor must prove several elements to accuse you of human trafficking or sex trafficking.

An experienced federal criminal attorney has the necessary skills to identify weaknesses in the prosecutor's case and help you build a strong defense. If your attorney succeeds in creating reasonable doubt, you will have a better chance of avoiding a criminal conviction.

You should ensure that your criminal defense attorney is familiar with all the federal laws and procedures at a higher level than the state level. An experienced attorney will help you create a strong defense strategy and will be able to challenge the evidence the prosecutor presents in your case.

You have several legal options if you have been accused of human trafficking under 18 U.S.C. 1581 or sex trafficking under 22 U.S.C. 7102:

  • Your attorney can negotiate with the federal prosecutor to charge you with a lesser offense — This is mainly possible if the attorney manages to convict the prosecutor that there is insufficient evidence to convict you. In some instances, the prosecutor may be willing to dismiss your case.
  • Depending on the specific details of your case, your criminal defense attorney may negotiate with the prosecutor to reach a favorable plea bargain.

Your attorney can employ numerous defenses to fight human trafficking charges. However, they will need to carefully examine all the details to create an appropriate defense strategy.

Cases involving human or sex trafficking get immense attention in the media, putting pressure on the police and the prosecutors to punish the alleged defendants severely and swiftly. Therefore, you risk being could up in this frenzy if you are accused of human or sex trafficking. It is common for law enforcement officers to violate your rights during their hasty investigations. The aggressive prosecutor will do everything in their power to ensure that you receive the maximum possible penalties.

The best way to defend yourself against unfair prosecution or unduly harsh penalties is by hiring an experienced human trafficking defense attorney as soon as possible. An attorney will help you exercise your constitutional rights and prevent the prosecutor from using illegally obtained evidence against you. A criminal defense attorney will pursue your defense as aggressively as the prosecutor will be pursuing your conviction.

Find A Virginia Criminal Attorney Near Me

If you have been accused of human trafficking, it is essential that you get an experienced criminal defense attorney working for you. At Virginia Criminal Attorney, our attorneys will not be intimidated by the complexity of your human or sex trafficking case. Our attorneys will work with you to find any weaknesses and flaws in the prosecutor’s evidence and use them for your defense. We will fight aggressively to charge you from the harsh penalties of a human trafficking conviction. Contact us at 703-718-5533 and speak to one of our attorneys.