What is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking is the trade of human beings for various reasons. The two main reasons are for forced labor and sexual exploitation. It is estimated there are millions of people trafficked throughout the world.

Human trafficking is on the rise in the United States, especially at ports of entry. Throughout the world, an increasing number of organized crime rings are involved in human trafficking. This is due to the highly profitable nature of this crime.

Human trafficking is a serious offense.

If you are suspected of this crime, you should contact an attorney. An experienced attorney can help you investigate and deal with the authorities.

When you are defending against claims of human trafficking, the facts are important.  

An experienced attorney can help you work with the facts to strengthen your case. If you are charged with human trafficking, you may also be charged with related crimes. It is important that you have an attorney review each charge to determine if it was properly brought against you.

The Law on Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is forbidden under various laws. Chapter 77 of Title 18 (“Chapter 77”) outlines the punishments for human trafficking, slavery, and peonage. The 13th Amendment of the United States Constitution outlawed slavery and involuntary servitude. Chapter 77 was passed under the 13th Amendment.

Under §1590 of Chapter 77, it is illegal to recruit, harbor, or transport any person for labor or services through peonage, slavery, involuntary servitude, or forced labor. To convict you for human trafficking, the prosecutor must prove that you violated Chapter 77 knowingly.

Acting “knowingly” means you knew what you were doing. The prosecution does not have to prove that you knew you were violating the law

The Punishment for Human Trafficking

Chapter 77 imposes various consequences for peonage, slavery, and human trafficking. If you are engaging in human trafficking, you may be faced with these consequences.

Under §1590, you may face up to 20 years in prison for one instance of human trafficking. However, if you engaged in kidnapping, sexual abuse, or any other abuse, you may be looking at life in prison.

Chapter 77 attempts to punish as many perpetrators as possible. It covers an array of acts associated with human trafficking. If you are connected to transportation, you may face criminal charges. You may also face criminal charges if you try to obstruct the investigation of peonage, slavery, and trafficking cases.

RICO Charges Are Common in Human Trafficking Cases

Many cases of trafficking are organized through a criminal enterprise. Under RICO law, 18 U.S. Code §1962, if you are part of an organized crime group and you receive funds as a result of human trafficking, you may face up to 20 years in prison.

How is Human Trafficking is Detected?

The crime of human trafficking is detected in several ways. Sometimes, a victim files a report. Other times, human trafficking is exposed to undercover investigations, confidential informants, and other investigations. There are several relief efforts available to victims of human trafficking.

These efforts aim to find and report such cases. For victims who have been trafficked into the U.S., there is a special VISA victim may apply for. However, to get the VISA, the victims must disclose the traffickers’ information.

In 2017, there were 8,759 reported cases of human trafficking in the U.S. The main purpose was for sex trafficking. There are a high number of workers in the sex industry who have been trafficked. As such, investigations may target certain facilities, such as massage parlors and strip clubs.

What Should I Do If I Am Under Investigation?

If you or your place of employment is under investigation, it is important to speak to an attorney. An attorney would be able to represent you throughout the investigation process and through proceedings if charges are brought against you.

The U.S. government, state governments, and several non-profit organizations spend millions of dollars in to uncover human trafficking. Incidents occurring on domestic and foreign soil are investigated. There are several reasons why the government may suspect you of human trafficking. If you are being investigated, you should contact an attorney experienced in defending against such suspicions.  

What Federal Agencies Combat Human Trafficking?

These agencies include the FBI, ICE, and the Criminal Division of the DOJ. Several local authorities and private organizations are also involved. The federal government has also created a National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline. This call center receives calls from victims and those who wish to report information on human trafficking.

How The Government Brings a Case of Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is taken very seriously by the federal government. A federal criminal trial begins with an investigation. During the investigation, the investigators will try to elicit confessions and other incriminating information for your conviction. It is important to know what the government’s burden of proof for human trafficking.

This knowledge can help you avoid incriminating yourself. Having an attorney present for questioning could help you avoid these pitfalls.

What Happens After the Investigation?

At the end of the investigation, the Attorney General’s office will determine if there is enough evidence to charge you with human trafficking and related crimes. If there is enough evidence, you will be formally charged. You will be informed of the acts you are charged with committing and the laws you may have violated.

What Happens After You Are Formally Charged?

When you have charges brought against you, you will have the opportunity to plead guilty. However, it is important to understand what your plea entails. For all plea negotiations, having an attorney can help you understand what you are pleading to. An attorney can even help you negotiate a plea settlement to get you the best deal possible.

What Happens During Questioning?

The federal agents will most likely question you to elicit incriminating information. This may happen before or after charges are brought.

If you are questioned, you have the right to not incriminate yourself. You have the right to have an attorney present for questioning to guide you and help you understand your rights.

A criminal investigation and trial for human trafficking can become very complicated. Having an attorney who understands the law and can effectively communicate the law to you is important.

What Happens At a Grand Jury Hearing for Human Trafficking?

After charges are brought, there will be a grand jury hearing. A grand jury will determine if there is enough evidence to indict you. Before a grand jury hearing, it is important to speak to an attorney to help you prepare. Your attorney might be able to get the charges dropped at the hearing.

What Happens After You Are Indicted for Human Trafficking?

After the indictment, your attorney and the government may work towards settlement or move towards dismissal of the case. If there is no settlement, the government will continue to gather evidence and prepare for trial. At this point, your attorney should be reviewing all of the evidence and preparing the best defense for a trial. For all of your charges, you will have the right to have a jury trial before a jury of your peers.

Establishing a Defense

If you are found guilty of human trafficking, you will likely have multiple charges brought against you. There is also a chance you will spend the rest of your life in prison. The punishment for human trafficking varies on a scale. The severity of the punishment depends on the age of the victim as well as your particular circumstances.

You may become the target of an investigation for human trafficking due to your association with an organization. This includes gangs and businesses. If you are part of a group that trades people for money, the government may come after you. An attorney can help you sort through the facts and assess your liability for the group’s actions.

Defenses Related To “Paying For Sexual Services”

If you are paying for sexual services, there is a possibility the sex worker was trafficked or is currently being trafficked. When you pay for sexual services, you might end up facing legal consequences for trafficking or aiding the trafficking. You should talk to your attorney about the specifics of how you retained the service, what happened, and what you knew. These facts are important in defending against your case.

If you are, or were, participating in trafficking, you may be able to work with the authorities to help victims or bring down other trafficking rings. Any time there are negotiations between you and the authorities, you should have your attorney present to negotiate a deal for your cooperation.

International Human Trafficking

Throughout the world, there are estimated to be millions of victims of trafficking. In the United States alone, trafficking is prevalent in nearly every state. Most incidents occur at the boards and ports of entry. The federal government prosecutes countless trafficking cases every year.

  • In 2013, Terrence “T-Rex” Yarbrough was sentenced to over 44 years in prison for 10 counts of sex trafficking. Victims of his trafficking ring came forward with evidence which ultimately secured his conviction. Yarbrough was charged with forcing his victims into prostitution and physically assaulting them.
  • In 2016, an Indonesian woman was rescued from a home in California when she passed a note to a visiting nurse. She was being held by Firas Majeed and Shatha Abbas. These individuals held her passport and forced her into domestic labor. The woman worked without pay for about 5 months. Both Majeed and Abbas were charged under the trafficking laws. They negotiated a plea deal under which they received 3 years of probation and had to pay $18,270 in restitution to the worker.
  • Most recently, a Ohio group of 5 suspects were charged with 9 counts of human trafficking. Investigators believe this group may have close to 90 victims who have not come forward. However, as more victims come forward, more charges can be brought. Many of these victims are also under the age of 18, which means the suspects might face severe punishment.

How to Avoid Being Charged with Human Trafficking

If you are involved in human trafficking, or if you are part of an organization you suspect is trafficking, the best advice is to cease all involvement. You should immediately speak to an attorney about your activities. Even if you no longer participate in human trafficking, you may still have charges brought against you.

Contacting An Attorney Should Be Your First Step

Contacting an attorney should be your first step if you are under investigation or suspect indirect involvement in human trafficking. There are serious consequences if you are found guilty. Getting ahead of any charges is important.

You should speak to an attorney before reporting activities you might have been involved in.

Just because you are reporting does not mean you are exonerated from charges. You may still be found guilty for participating in activities involving trafficking. Stopping trade is extremely important to the government. They may negotiate with you. However, having an attorney may increase your odds of a successful negotiation.

The Criminal Lawyer Group Can Help You

The crime of human trafficking is a very serious offense. If you are being investigated or charged with this crime, you must contact an experienced federal criminal defense attorney. He or she will know how to work with the federal prosecutors and investigators to get ahead of these charges and help you make your case.