The legal definition of human trafficking is:
- Depriving someone of their personal liberty with the intent to obtain forced labor or services from them,
- Depriving someone of their personal liberty with the intent to violate California’s pimping and pandering laws, California’s child pornography laws, California laws against extortion and blackmail, or certain other California laws concerning commercial sexual activity and the sexual exploitation of children, OR,
- Persuading or trying to persuade a minor to engage in a commercial sex act, with the intent to violate one of those same laws.
In 2012, California voters passed Proposition 35 (the “Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act”), which provides for new, very harsh penalties for people convicted of violating Penal Code 236.1 PC.
Human trafficking is always a felony in California.
If you are convicted of human trafficking in order to obtain forced labor or services, you face:
- five (5), eight (8), or twelve (12) years in California state prison, and,
- a fine of up to five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000).
If you are convicted of human trafficking in order to commit a crime related to commercial sex, child pornography, or extortion, you face:
- eight (8), fourteen (14), or twenty (20) years in state prison,
- a fine of up to five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000), and
- the requirement that you register as a sex offender.
Finally, if you persuade a minor to engage in a commercial sex act, you could receive:
- five (5) to twelve (12) years in prison, OR a sentence of fifteen (15) years to life, if the jury determines that you used force, fear, violence, or threat of injury to the alleged victim,
- a five hundred thousand dollar ($500,000) fine, and,
- a sex offender registration requirement.
In order to be found guilty under this section, the prosecutor must prove that you;
Deprived another person of their personal liberty or violated that person’s personal liberty, AND when you did so, you intended to obtain forced labor or services.
A deprivation or violation of someone’s personal liberty is a substantial and sustained restriction of their liberty through force or fear, fraud or deceit, coercion, violence, duress (i.e., a threat of force, violence, danger, hardship, or retribution), menace (i.e., a verbal or physical threat of harm), or, threat of injury to that person or someone else, under circumstances that make it reasonably likely that the person would believe that the threat would be carried out.
Duress can include a threat to take away—or actually taking away—the victim’s passport or other immigration document.
“Forced labor or services” means labor or services that are obtained or maintained through force, fraud, duress, coercion, or similar behavior that would be expected to reasonably overpower the will of the person providing the labor or services.
Note that forced labor or services do not necessarily have to be unpaid, according to the legal definition of California human trafficking. This distinguishes forced labor under this law from our normal idea of “slave labor”—which we tend to think of as unpaid.
Human trafficking under Penal Code 236.1(b) are that you deprived another person of their personal liberty or violated that person’s personal liberty, AND, when you did so, you intended to commit one of a specified list of crimes.
The crimes associated with Penal Code 236.1(b) are:
- Penal Code 266 PC enticing a female under 18 to engage in prostitution,
- Penal Code 266h PC pimping,
- Penal Code 266i PC pandering,
- Penal Code 266j PC procurement of a child under 16 for lewd or lascivious acts,
- Penal Code 267 PC abduction of a person under 18 for purposes of prostitution,
- Penal Code 311.1 or 311.2 PC transporting or distributing child pornography,
- Penal Code 311.3 PC developing, duplicating, printing, or exchanging child pornography,
- Penal Code 311.4 PC employing minors to participate in child pornography,
- Penal Code 311.5 PC advertising obscene material,
- Penal Code 311.6 PC production of obscene live performances, and
- Penal Code 518 PC extortion/blackmail.
- Penal Code 236.1(c) PC makes it a crime to:
- Cause, induce, or persuade a minor to engage in a commercial sex act with the intent to commit one of the crimes listed above.
The legal definition of human trafficking under this section is notably different from the other sections of Penal Code 236.1—because it does not require that you deprive anyone of their personal liberty. Nonetheless, this activity is still considered “human trafficking.”
It is also important to note that you can be prosecuted under this section of California’s human trafficking law even if you were honestly mistaken about the age of the “victim.”
The punishment, penalties and sentencing for Penal Code 236.1 human trafficking depend on which section of the statute you are alleged to have violated. However, the crime is always a felony in California.
For a violation of Penal Code 236.1(a) (depriving another person of their liberty with the intent to obtain forced labor or services), the penalties are as simple as formal probation, or a state prison sentence of five(5), eight (8), or twelve (12) years and/or a fine of up to $500,000.
For a violation of Penal Code 236.1(b) PC (depriving another person of their liberty with the intent to enable a violation of laws on pimping/pandering, child pornography, or extortion), the penalties are as simple as formal probation, or a state prison sentence of eight (8), fourteen (14) or twenty (20) years and/or a fine of up to $500,000. You will also be required to register as a sex offender under Penal Code 290 PC, California’s Sex Offender Registration Act.
Finally, if you violate Penal Code 236.1(c) (causing or persuading a minor to engage in a commercial sex act), you face formal (felony) probation, or a state prison sentence of five (5), eight (8), or twelve (12) years, and/or a fine of up to $500,000.
BUT, if the charges are that you used force, fear, fraud, deceit, coercion, violence, duress, menace, or threat of unlawful injury to the victim or another person to commit this offense—then the potential prison sentence increases to fifteen (15) years to life!
A conviction under this section also leads to mandatory sex offender registration.
In addition to the prison terms listed above, you face an additional, consecutive term of five (5), seven (7) or ten (10) years in prison if it is determined that you inflicted great bodily injury on a victim while committing or attempting to commit a human trafficking offense.
Also, if you have previous convictions for violating Penal Code 236.1 PC, your sentence will be enhanced by an additional, consecutive prison term of five (5) years for each prior violation.
In addition to the prison terms and fines discussed above, if you are convicted of California human trafficking, you may face further financial penalties.
First, thanks to Proposition 35, which was passed in 2012, the court may slap you with an additional fine of up to $1,000,000. In making that determination, the judge will consider the seriousness of your offense, the circumstances and duration of your offense, the amount of economic gain you derived from human trafficking, and the extent to which the victim suffered losses.
Second, the victim may bring a civil lawsuit against you for damages relating to your conduct. The court has wide discretion to impose large civil penalties under California law—including amounts up to three (3) times the actual damages that the victim is able to show.
Finally, if you are convicted of human trafficking involving a commercial sex act committed by a person under 18, then you could face various forms of asset forfeiture. Specifically, the state might be able to seize any property, including vehicles, real estate, and money, that was used to facilitate the crime, and/or any property acquired through or with the proceeds of human trafficking.
If you or someone you love is being accused of any of the above crimes, the immediate counsel of an aggressive defense attorney with a demonstrable track record can be of enormous help to you. Let Attorney Richard Dudek help you fight for your LIFE!