Sex Trafficking is a crime under both New York State and federal criminal laws. If you have been arrested or suspect that you are under investigation, contact top rated New York Sex Trafficking Attorneys today to schedule your initial consultation.

What is Sex Trafficking?

Sex Trafficking is the transportation of individuals from one area to another, or from one country to another for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex. Frequently, this is accomplished through the use of fraud, force, or coercion. New York Sex Trafficking can be broken up into three different stages:

  • acquisition,
  • movement, AND
  • exploitation.

Common potential New York Sex Trafficking venues include:

  • Strip Clubs,
  • Residential Brothels,
  • Street-Based Prostitution,
  • Online Advertisements,
  • Escort Agencies, AND
  • Commercial-Fronted Brothels

Which Agencies Investigate Sex Trafficking?

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has the primary jurisdiction over investigating Sex Trafficking in New York and nation-wide. Other federal agencies that investigate Sex Trafficking are:

  • The United States Marshal Service,
  • The Drug Enforcement Administration,
  • The Immigration and Customs Enforcement,
  • The United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and Criminal Section.

Additionally, there is a number of regional task forces nation-wide that are funded by U.S. Department of Justice. These regional task forces proactively investigate cases of Sex Trafficking and Human Trafficking.

Is Sex Trafficking Prosecuted by State or Federal Prosecutors?

Both state and federal prosecutors at the U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecute New York Sex Trafficking cases. Due to budget constraints of federal prosecutors and the jurisdictional limitations of the federal prosecutors, many of the New York Sex Trafficking cases are prosecuted on the state level. Similarly, as each of the 50 states has passed laws criminalizing human trafficking, or sex trafficking in particular, most Sex Trafficking cases are prosecuted on the state, rather than the federal level.

What New York State Criminal Laws Apply to Sex Trafficking?

In 2014, New York State legislators passed New York Penal Law Section §230.34, which created the crime of Sex Trafficking. Under New York Penal Law §230.34, a person is guilty of Sex Trafficking when s/he intentionally advances or profits from prostitution by:

  1. Unlawfully providing the victim with certain drugs,
  2. Making materially false statements to induce the victim to participate or to continue to participate in prostitution activity,
  3. Withholding or destroying government identification documents such as a passport belonging to the victim,
  4. Requiring that victim engage in prostitution for repayment of a debt,
  5. Using force or engaging in any scheme, plan or pattern to compel or induce such person to engage in prostitution by making that person fearful of one of eight actions or consequences against him or her such as:
    • Causing physical injury, serious physical injury, or death to a person,
    • Causing damage to property, other than the property of the actor,
    • Engaging in other conduct constituting a felony or unlawful imprisonment in the second degree,
    • Accusing some person of a crime or cause criminal charges or deportation proceedings to be instituted against some person,
    • Exposing a secret or publicize an asserted fact, whether true or false, tending to subject some person to hatred, contempt or ridicule,
    • Testifying or providing information or withhold testimony or information with respect to another’s legal claim or defense,
    • Using or abusing his or her position as a public servant by performing some act within or related to his or her official duties, or by failing or refusing to perform an official duty, in such manner as to affect some person adversely, OR
    • Performing any other act which would not in itself materially benefit the actor, but which is calculated to harm the person who is patronized materially with respect to his or her health, safety, or immigration status.

What Are the Penalties for New York State Sex Trafficking?

Under New York Law, Sex Trafficking is a Class “B” Violent Felony. As such, it is punishable by 5 to 25 years imprisonment. In addition, a court may order a defendant to pay a fine of $5,000 or double the defendant’s gain from Sex Trafficking. Furthermore, individuals convicted of Sex Trafficking will be subject to Sex Offender Registration, or SORA.

What Federal Criminal Laws Apply to Sex Trafficking?

Human trafficking is a crime under federal law. It is codified in Section 1584 of Title 18 of the United States Code. Under 18 U.S.C. Section 1584, it is a crime to:

  1. Knowingly and willfully,
  2. Hold to involuntary servitude or sell into any condition of involuntary servitude,
  3. Any other person for any term, or bringing within the United States any person so held.

What Are the Federal Penalties for Sex Trafficking?

Violations of 18 U.S.C. Section 1584 are punishable by either a fine or imprisonment up to 20 years. However, if death results from the violation of federal human trafficking laws, 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 defendant shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for any term of years or life, or both, then this charge is punishable by “any term of years” or life.

What Other Crimes Are Charged with Sex Trafficking?

Trafficking in persons should be understood as a process rather than as a single offence. It begins with the abduction or recruitment of a person and continues with the transportation and entry of the individual into another location. This is followed by the exploitation phase, during which the victim is forced into sexual or labor servitude or other forms of exploitation. A further phase may occur, which does not involve the victim but rather the offender. Depending upon the size and sophistication of the trafficking operation, the criminal (organization) may find it necessary to launder the proceeds of crime. During the trafficking process, the offenders usually perpetrate several different offences. There may be linkages between trafficking operations and other criminal offences such as the smuggling of weapons or drugs. Offences are also committed in furtherance or protection of the human trafficking operation. Other crimes, such as money-laundering and tax evasion, are secondary, but essential to protect the illicit proceeds of the trafficking activity.

What Are Defenses to New York Sex Trafficking Charges?

Sexually exploited youth are often arrested for prostitution and other trafficking-related offenses. In response, states are focusing on addressing youth as victims and taking steps to prevent arrested or previously convicted young people from being treated as criminals by the justice system. Actions taken by states include providing immunity from prosecution for certain offenses by minors, creating an affirmative defense to criminal charges for trafficked victims, providing for the pretrial diversion of trafficked youth and creating procedures to clear trafficking related criminal convictions from victim’s records. At least 19 states enable an individual charged with prostitution-related offenses to assert as an affirmative defense, that their actions were the result of being victimized by human trafficking.

In 2014, Arizona, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Maine created an affirmative defense to certain criminal charges for trafficked victims. At least six states—Illinois, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Vermont—make all minors immune from prosecution for prostitution; some extend that immunity to related offenses such as pandering, trafficking and procuring prostitutes.

In Connecticut, children ages 15 and under are immune from prosecution for prostitution. For 16- and 17-year-olds charged with prostitution, the statute creates a rebuttable presumption that they are victims of trafficking for the purpose of raising an affirmative defense. Once identified as a minor, these laws usually require officials to notify appropriate agencies for protective services. Some states enable minors charged with prostitution and related offenses to be diverted to pretrial programs at the discretion of justice officials.

For example, Washington’s law enables prosecutors to divert first time juvenile offenders into programs that provide safe housing, chemical dependency treatment, trauma treatment, employment training and other services. The law also requires data collection for the number of juveniles diverted and their rate of recidivism.

In 2014, New York, Ohio, and Utah enacted laws to divert certain trafficked youth from the justice system. New York’s law allows judicial officials to convert prostitution and loitering charges for 16- and 17-year-olds into “person in need of supervision” cases, enabling protective services to be provided. Ohio’s law now enables justice officials to accept a defendant’s request for intervention in lieu of conviction if being trafficked was a leading factor in their criminal behavior. Utah’s new law requires police to refer certain trafficked youth to the Division of Child and Family Services.

At least 15 states enable victims who have previously been convicted of prostitution or related offenses to petition to have their conviction record cleared. These laws provide standards for submitting requests to vacate expunge or seal certain convictions and standards for justice officials to grant or deny the request. These laws help victims remove criminal records that can make it challenging for them to get a job get credit and attain housing.

Debt Repayment in Forced Sexual Labor Cases?

Forcing an individual into prostitution to work off a debt, whether real or imaginary, can result in a conviction of Sex Trafficking.  This scenario is frequently seen with immigrants who are brought to this country, often illegally and find themselves indebted to the people who arranged for their passage to the U.S.  They are told that to pay off the debt that they must work as a prostitute. This type of arrangement can be tricky for a prosecutor to prove as there are usually no formal written arrangements and the government’s case is based predominantly on the statements of an individual who also admittedly has broken the law. 

What are Threats or Force in Sex Trafficking Cases?

Compelling an individual to engage in prostitution through physical threats (causing injury or death), property threats (causing damage or destruction to property), mental coercion (exposing a secret, regardless of veracity, which will cause public humiliation or contempt), or any other act which would not materially benefit the defendant but is calculated to harm the prostitute also can be prosecuted under this statute. 

This catch-all provision grants prosecutors’ significant leeway to argue how certain actions may not benefit one individual but are calculated to harm another in the context of a prostitution case. An individual charged under this subsection may find themselves in a situation where the government is ascribing motives to certain behavior to fit the theory of their case.  Finding ways to contradict the prosecutor’s assertions regarding individual motives is essential to successfully combating this charge. 

Contrary to what most people think about Sex Trafficking charges, at no point is the prosecutor ever required to prove that a person was transported, traded, bought, or sold.  The main theme of the charges is the domination of one party over the other, and the use of some sort of real or abstract force to engage a person to act as a prostitute, whether by getting them addicted to drugs, crippling their perceived ability to leave, blackmailing, etc.  Although sex trafficking organizations tend to be thought of as large and complex hierarchies of individuals working toward a common goal, the reality is that anyone individual acting alone can run afoul of this statute and the prosecutor will pursue them just as hard as they would if the case concerned an entire group. 

Contact Top Rated New York Sex Trafficking Attorneys Today

If you or your loved one has been charged with Sex Trafficking or Human Trafficking, you need to schedule your consultation with our New York Sex Trafficking Attorneys as soon as possible. Having the right New York Sex Trafficking Attorney on your case is extremely important to the outcome of your case. Your attorney will need to examine the strengths and weaknesses of your case and leave no stone unturned in developing a defense. Additionally, many of these cases receive a lot of publicity. It is essential that your New York Sex Trafficking Attorney understands the benefits of media coverage and uses it to your benefit. Please call us at 212-729-9494 or contact us today for your free initial consultation.