Human trafficking is modern-day slavery. Using duplicity, coercion, or force, traffickers subject their victims to unpaid labor, sexual exploitation, or both. Under California state law, human trafficking encompasses all acts involved in recruiting, abducting, transporting, harboring, and exploitation of a person. Anyone who violates or deprives the personal liberty of someone else with the intention of obtaining forced services or labor is guilty of this crime.
California Penal Code (Cal Pen. Code §236.1) (2005) makes human trafficking punishable by 5, 8, or 12 years in the state prison plus a fine of up to $500,000, depending on the circumstances. If the victim is exploited sexually, the applicable prison terms are increased to 8, 14, or 20 years plus a fine of up to $500,000. If force of any type (threats, physical violence) is involved, a prison term of 15 years to life may apply.
Asset forfeiture may also apply: prosecutors may ask the court to freeze all proceeds from human trafficking activities, and if the defendant is convicted, the proceeds can be forfeited.
Federal law defines the crime of human trafficking using the same criteria as California state law. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act mandates a prison sentence of up to 20 years for those trafficking in children under 18 if no force, coercion, or fraud was involved. If these elements were employed to mislead or control the victim, the perpetrator may be imprisoned for life. The Mann Act criminalizes the transportation of individuals across state lines or to foreign countries for the purposes of commercial sex. Punishment includes up to 20 years in prison, with more severe options if the victim is a minor.
Aggravated sexual abuse, attempted aggravated sexual abuse, Assault, Attempted assault, Battery, Kidnapping, Attempted kidnapping, and murder
Human trafficking carries a severe penalty range: in addition to lengthy prison time, a conviction can lead to heavy fines and asset forfeiture. Anyone accused of an activity legally defined as human trafficking should contact a California defense attorney as soon as they are either arrested or become aware that they are a suspect.
A person may successfully defend themselves against a human trafficking charge if they can prove that they were falsely accused or, in the case of an adult alleged victim, if the victim gave consent for non-criminal acts. Mental defect is also a valid defense.
In 2001 Lakireddy Bali Reddy was convicted of human trafficking activities. Reddy, who was a real estate baron and restaurateur residing in Berkeley, operated a sex trafficking ring whose victims were repeatedly raped and forced to work in the rental properties and restaurants he controlled. When one of his victims died of carbon monoxide poisoning he was arrested. Reddy’s punishment amounted to less than eight years in prison, which ignited public controversy and led to a reform of California’s human trafficking laws.