Federal Human Trafficking is a crime that involves exporting a person for services, labor or commercial sex. Under federal law, human trafficking involves either:

  • Sex Trafficking, in which a person induced to perform a commercial sex act is under 18 years old or is induced by force, fraud or coercion, OR
  • Labor or services trafficking, which involves recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for purposes of involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery.

Federal Human Trafficking charges are some of the most serious cases brought by prosecutors. These cases can result in felony convictions and lengthy prison terms.

Federal Human Trafficking Criminal Laws

Laws prohibiting federal human trafficking are located in several different criminal statues. The following laws prohibit federal sex and labor human trafficking:

  • Mann Act of 1910
  • Trafficking Victims Protection Act (commonly abbreviated “TVPA”)
  • Sections 1583 and 1584 of Title 18 of United States Code.

These federal regulations are explained in greater detail below.

Mann Act of 1910

In 1910, Congress passed the Mann Act, named after Congressman James Mann of Illinois. This law, as originally passed, made it a felony to transport in interstate or foreign commerce “any woman or girl for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose.” This Act was amended by Congress in 1978 and again in 1986, to limit its application to transportation for the purposes of prostitution or other illegal sexual acts and expanded the act to transportation of individuals of any gender. Additionally, child pornography was specifically included as a an underlying crime for the Mann Act charge.

Elements of the Federal Human Trafficking Under the Mann Act

The Mann Act is codified in 18 U.S.C. Section 2421. Under 18 U.S.C. Section 2421, it is a crime to:

  • Knowingly
  • Transport any individual in interstate or foreign commerce, or in any Territory or possession of the United States,
  • With intent that such individual engage in prostitution, or in any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense or attempts to do so.

What is Considered to Be Sexual Activity for Which a Person Can Be Charged with a Criminal Offense?

There is no specific definition of what constitutes “sexual activity for which a person can be charged with a criminal offense.” However, 18 U.S.C. § 2427 specifically includes child pornography, as that term is defined in Section 2256(8) of the United States Code.

Additionally, federal prosecutors have prosecuted these sexual crimes as underlying charges for violations of the Mann Act:

  • Kidnapping,
  • Coercion,
  • Child prostitution,
  • Transportation of a minor.

Sentencing and Penalties for Violations of the Mann Act

Violations of the Mann Act are punishable by:

  • Imprisonment up to 10 years,
  • Fine up to $250,00, OR
  • Both a term of imprisonment and a fine.

Importantly, this federal human trafficking charge can also be coupled with more serious charges, such as RICO. In that situation, the maximum term of imprisonment will be greater than 10 years because of the other charges.

Trafficking Victims Protection Act

Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (commonly abbreviated as “TVPA”) is a federal law that contains provisions relating to protection of human trafficking victims, prosecution and prevention of human trafficking. These are called the “3Ps” designed to fight federal human trafficking. The TVPA imposes harsh criminal penalties on those convicted of human trafficking, including significant jail time as well as forfeiture of all proceeds of criminal activity.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act is codified in Chapter 7 of Title 28 of United States Code. The criminal provisions of this Federal Human Trafficking statute are codified in 18 U.S.C. Section 1591 and 18 U.S.C. Section 1592.

18 U.S.C. 1591 – Sex Trafficking of Children or By Force, Fraud or Coercion

The federal human trafficking charge titled Sex Trafficking of Children or By Force Force, Fraud or Coercion is codified in 18 U.S.C. Section 1591. A person is guilty of this federal human trafficking charge when he or she:

  1. Knowingly,
  2. In or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, or within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States,
  3. Recruits, entices, harbors, transports, provides, obtains, advertises, maintains, patronizes, or solicits by any means a person, OR
  4. Benefits, financially or by receiving anything of value, from participation in a venture, which has engaged in an act described, OR
  5. Knowing, or in reckless disregard of the fact, that that means of force, threats of force, fraud, coercion, or any combination of such means will be used to cause the person to engage in a commercial sex act, or that the person has not attained the age of 18 years and will be caused to engage in a commercial sex act.

Sentencing and Penalties for Violations of 18 U.S.C. 1591

This federal human trafficking statute has different penalties depending on which subsection of the 18 U.S.C. 1591 is charged.

18 U.S.C. 1591(1) – Force, Fraud or Coercion or Individual Under Age 14

18 U.S.C. 1591(1) is charged when either:

  1. The offense was committed by means of force, threats of force, fraud, coercion or by any combination of such means, OR
  2. If the person recruited, enticed, harbored, transported, provided, obtained, advertised, patronized, or solicited had not attained the age of 14 years at the time of the offense.

In these situations, this federal sex trafficking charge is punishable by:

  • A term of imprisonment from 15 years to life, AND
  • A Fine up to $250,000.

18 U.S.C. 1591(2) – Trafficking of Individuals Ages 14 to 18

When the person recruited, enticed, harbored, transported, provided, obtained, advertised, patronized or solicited had not attained the age of 18 at the time of the offense, but was over the age of 14, this charge is punishable by:

  • A minimum term of imprisonment of 10 years,
  • A maximum term of imprisonment of life,
  • A fine up to $250,000.

Obstruction of Enforcement of 18 U.S.C. 1591

There is a separate sentencing provision that relates to individuals who obstruct, attempt to obstruct, or in any way interfere with or prevent the enforcement of 18 U.S.C. 1591. This sentencing provision is codified in 18 U.S.C. 1591(d) and provides that an individual who obstructs, attempts to obstruct, or in any way interferes with or prevents the enforcement of this section, shall be:

  • Imprisoned for a term up to 25 years,
  • Fined up to $250,000 OR
  • Both fined and imprisoned.

18 U.S.C. 1592 – Unlawful Conduct with Respect to Documents in Furtherance of Trafficking, Peonage, Slavery, Involuntary Servitude, or Forced Labor

It is a federal crime to:

  • Knowingly
  • Destroy, conceal, remove, confiscate or possess,
  • Any actual or purported passport or other immigration document of a person,
  • In the course of, or with intent to violate federal human trafficking laws, or o prevent or restrict or to attempt to prevent or restrict, without lawful authority, the person’s liberty to move or travel, in order to maintain the labor or services of that person,
  • When the person is or has been a victim of a severe form of trafficking in persons.

This federal human trafficking charge is punishable by:

  • A term of imprisonment up to 5 years,
  • A fine up to $250,000, OR
  • Both a term of imprisonment and a fine.

Other Federal Human Trafficking Provisions

Other federal human trafficking provisions are codified in 18 U.S.C. Section 1580 et seq. This federal statute prohibits the following:

  • Human Trafficking and relating offenses,
  • Forcing another to perform forced labor,
  • Possession of slaves abroad a vessel, AND
  • Transporting slaves from the United States.

These charge are explained in greater detail below.

18 U.S. Code § 1583 – Enticement into Slavery

18 U.S.C. Section 1583 prohibits kidnapping of another individual to be sold into slavery, or enticing or persuading someone to go somewhere for the purposes of making that person a slave. This federal human trafficking charge also prohibits obstruction or attempted obstruction or interference with enforcement of this section.

Sentencing and Penalties for Violations of 18 U.S.C. 1583

Obstruction or interference with enforcement of this federal human trafficking law is punishable by:

  • A term of imprisonment up to 30 years,
  • A fine up to $250,000, OR
  • Both a fine and imprisonment.

All other violations of this section are punishable by any term of years of by life if either:

  1. The violation results in the death of the victim; OR
  2. The violation includes kidnaping, an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse, an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill.

18 U.S. Code § 1584 – Sale Into Involuntary Servitude

Federal human trafficking charges relating to Sale Into Involuntary Servitude are codified in 18 U.S.C Section 1584. This charge criminalizes knowingly and willfully holding to involuntary servitude or selling into any condition of involuntary servitude, any other person for any term, or brings within the United States any person so held. Additionally, obstruction of enforcement of this section is also a crime under 18 U.S.C. Section 1584.

Sentencing and Penalties for Violations of 18 U.S.C. 1584

This charge is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, a fine up to $250,000 or both a fine and a term of imprisonment. The same penalties apply for intentional obstruction or enforcement of the section.

If death results from the violation of this section, or if the violation includes kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or the attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, this charge is punishable by up to life in prison.

18 U.S. Code § 1585 – Seizure, Detention, Transportation or Sale of Slaves

Seizure, Detention, Transportation or Sale or Slaves is codified in 18 US.C. Section 1585. This federal human trafficking charge has the following elements:

  • Being a U.S citizen or resident and a member of the crew or ship’s company of any foreign vessel engaged in the slave trade, OR
  • Being of the ship’s crew of any vessel owned in whole or in part, or navigated for, or in behalf of, any citizen of the United States,
  • Lands from such vessel, and on any foreign shore seizes any person,
  • With intent to make that person a slave, or decoys, or forcibly brings, carries, receives, confines, detains or transports any person as a slave on board such vessel, or, on board such vessel, offers or attempts to sell any such person as a slave, or on the high seas or anywhere on tide water, transfers or delivers to any other vessel any such person with intent to make such person a slave, or lands or delivers on shore from such vessel any person with intent to sell, or having previously sold,

Sentencing and Penalties for 18 U.S.C. 1585

This federal human trafficking charge is punishable by:

  • Imprisonment up to 7 years,
  • Fine up to $250,000, OR
  • Both a term of imprisonment and a fine.

18 U.S. Code § 1586 – Service on vessels in slave trade

Under 18 U.S.C. Section 1586, citizens or residents of the United States who voluntarily serve on board of any vessel employed or made use of in the transportation of slaves from any foreign country or place to another, are subject to criminal prosecution. This charge is punishable by:

  • Up to 2 years in prison,
  • A fine up to $250,000, OR
  • Both a fine and a term of imprisonment.

18 U.S. Code § 1587 – Possession of Slaves Aboard Vessel

Another federal human trafficking charge is Possession of Slaves Aboard Vessel. This charge is codified in 18 U.S.C. Section 1587. Under 18 U.S.C. Section 1587, anyone being the captain, master or commander of any vessel and having on board any person for the purpose of selling such person as a slave I subject to prosecution. This charge is punishable by:

  • Up to 10 years in prison,
  • A fine up to $250,000, OR
  • Both a term of imprisonment and a fine.

18 U.S. Code § 1588 – Transportation of Slaves from United States

It is also a crime for a captain, or owner of the vessel, to receive any person on board with knowledge or intent that such person be carried into the United States for the purpose of being sold as a slave. This charge is punishable by:

  • Up to 10 years in prison,
  • A fine up to $250,000,
  • Or both a fine and a term of imprisonment.

18 U.S. Code § 1589 – Forced Labor

The federal human trafficking laws relating to Forced Labor are codified in Section 1589 of Title 18 of United States Code. Under this criminal statute, whoever knowingly provides or obtains the labor or services of a person by any one of, or by any combination of, the following means:

  • By means of force, threats of force, physical restraint, or threats of physical restraint to that person or another person;
  • By means of serous harm or threats of serious harm to that person or another person;
  • By means of abuse or threatened abuse of law or legal process; OR
  • By means of any scheme, plan, or pattern intended to cause the person to believe that, if that person did not perform such labor or services, that person or another person would suffer serious harm or physical restraint.

It is also a crime to knowingly benefit, financially or by receiving anything of value from participation in a venture which has engaged in the providing or obtaining of labor or services by any of the means of force, threats of force, physical restraint, or by means of abuse or threatened abuse of law or legal process, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that the venture has engaged in the providing or obtaining of labor or services by any of such means.

Sentencing and Penalties for 18 U.S.C. Section 1589

This federal human trafficking charge is punishable by:

  • Imprisonment up to 20 years,
  • A fine up to $250,000

If death results from violations of this section, or if the violation includes kidnapping, an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, this charge has a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

18 U.S. Code § 1590 – Trafficking with Respect to Peonage, Slavery, Involuntary Servitude, or Forced Labor

Knowingly recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing or obtaining by any means any person for labor or service in violation of this chapter is punishable by:

  • Up to 20 years in prison,
  • A fine up to $250,000, OR
  • Both imprisonment and a fine.

However, if death results from the violation of this section, or if the violation includes kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse, or the attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, the maximum term of imprisonment is life.

Contact Top Rated Federal Human Trafficking Criminal Attorneys

If you or your loved one has been charged with federal human trafficking, you need experienced counsel. Finding the right attorney can make the difference between a good outcome and a great one. Read our client testimonials to see what our clients say about our service. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.