What You Need to Know About Human Trafficking Charges and Sentences

human trafficking charges

Human trafficking is a serious crime under federal and state laws. It can take different forms, including forced labor, sex trafficking, and the exploitation of children. Over 27 million people are trafficked each year for labor or commercial sex exploitation, according to the Department of State. Both federal and state authorities have responded by enacting comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation imposing severe punishments upon conviction – including lengthy prison sentences, fines, and asset forfeiture.

If you or a loved one faces accusations related to human trafficking, understanding the relevant laws and potential penalties is crucial from the outset. Don’t try to navigate these cases alone. You need skilled legal counsel from the very start to mount a strong defense and protect your future. Contact our firm immediately to discuss the details of your situation in a confidential consultation.

Federal Human Trafficking Laws and Penalties

The federal law targeting all types of human trafficking is the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) from 2000 and its later updates. This law outlines harsh punishments for anyone involved in human trafficking crimes in the United States.

Under 18 U.S.C. § 1591, trafficking adults through means like force, fraud, or coercion into commercial sex acts draws sentences ranging up to life imprisonment if the crime involves aggravating factors. Trafficking children under 18 into commercial sexual exploitation carries an automatic statutory minimum of 15 years up to life – even without any force, fraud, or coercion.

Factors Increasing Federal Penalties for Sex Trafficking

And those are just the baselines. Federal prosecutors routinely pursue substantially enhanced penalties when human trafficking cases involve:

  • The use of physical force, threats of force, serious harm, or physical restraint
  • Kidnapping, attempted murder, or intentionally causing death
  • Child victims under 14 years old, triggering heightened mandatory minimums
  • Evidence of sex trafficking minors or by force, fraud, or coercion under § 1591

Upon conviction, judges must adhere to these unforgiving federal sentencing guidelines. Attempts to reduce penalties routinely prove futile due to the severity of trafficking charges. Engaging in these unconscionable acts guarantees decades, if not life, behind bars under the TVPA.

Federal Labor Trafficking Charges and Punishments

Of course, the federal government’s uncompromising stance applies equally to labor trafficking prohibited under 18 U.S.C. § 1589. This law bans any use of force, threats, coercion, or abuse of legal process to compel labor services in conditions akin to involuntary servitude.

Penalties upon conviction ramp up to 20 years imprisonment, soaring further toward potential life sentences if the offenses involve kidnapping, attempted killing, sexual abuse, or death. Dozens of high-profile cases affirm U.S. Attorneys remain undeterred in prosecuting this modern-day form of slavery.

Multi-Jurisdictional Task Forces Combating Trafficking

Multiple law enforcement agencies have joined forces in recent years to combat human trafficking through collaborative task forces. These multi-agency groups work together to disrupt criminal networks involved in this illegal activity.

Led by the Department of Justice, along with agencies like the FBI, ICE, Department of Labor, and even the IRS, these nationwide task forces combine their resources to identify and investigate human trafficking operations across multiple states and jurisdictions. Local law enforcement frequently aids these federal task forces by sharing intelligence, evidence, and resources for supporting survivors.

Hundreds of traffickers have faced indictments following extensive multifront investigations by these coordinated operations.

Texas State Laws on Human Trafficking

The sustained fight against human trafficking hardly ends with federal laws and enforcement. All 50 states have enacted their own anti-trafficking criminal statutes, further empowering local prosecutors to seek harsh sentences against those perpetuating these enterprises within their jurisdictions.

Under Texas Penal Code § 20A.02, individuals convicted of labor or sex trafficking face felony imprisonment ranging from 2 years up to life sentences – with aggravating factors like child victims or trafficking near schools automatically enhancing the charges to first-degree felonies.

Unique Texas Trafficking Statutes and Initiatives

Moreover, Texas has positioned itself as a trailblazer in combating trafficking’s many maneuvers through legal innovations such as:

  • Criminal laws explicitly prohibiting the trafficking of disabled individuals
  • Bolstering statewide information-sharing between law enforcement
  • Mounting aggressive public awareness campaigns
  • Dedicating specialized state prosecutors with anti-trafficking expertise

Texas takes an aggressive stance when it comes to prosecuting human trafficking cases. Whether it’s sex trafficking, labor trafficking, or other forms of exploitation, the state will not go easy on these charges. With such a hardline approach, having an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side becomes absolutely crucial if you’re facing human trafficking allegations in Texas.

You Need Aggressive Legal Counsel to Confront Human Trafficking Accusations

Facing human trafficking charges is an uphill legal battle. The government shows zero tolerance through mandatory minimum sentences, aggressive multi-agency enforcement operations, and harsh anti-trafficking laws.

At Whalen Law Office, we understand the severity of trafficking accusations and prosecutorial overreach that can lead to unfair charges. Our criminal defense team carefully examines all the evidence and factors that could increase sentencing exposure. We leverage constitutional protections to suppress improper evidence and contest aggravating circumstances that drive harsh penalties. We aim to ensure just outcomes, not racking up “wins” for the prosecution.

If you’re facing human trafficking allegations, don’t wait and see what happens. Explore all of your legal options by contacting our federal criminal defense lawyers at Whalen Law Office today. With 70+ years of combined criminal law experience, our veteran attorneys possess courtroom skills and in-depth familiarity with state and federal trafficking laws to build a robust defense strategy tailored to your unique circumstances.

Author Bio

James P. Whalen

James P. Whalen is the managing attorney and founder of Whalen Law Office, a Texas criminal defense firm offering personalized legal representation for various federal criminal charges. With a commitment to providing comfort and guidance during challenging times, Mr. Whalen serves as both an attorney and counselor to his clients, helping them navigate their cases while striving to restore normalcy to their lives.

In an inherently unbalanced criminal justice system, Mr. Whalen takes on cases with unwavering dedication. With decades of legal experience, he offers representation across various criminal charges, including white-collar crimes, violent crimes, drug charges, and more. Mr. Whalen’s numerous accolades, including Super Lawyer recognition and board certification in Criminal Appellate Law and Criminal Law, reflect his unwavering commitment to ethical and high-quality legal representation.

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