Human trafficking involves transportation of illegal or undocumented workers either from foreign countries into the United States or from one state to another. Individuals are often forced to work long hours in sweat shops, agricultural industries, or illegal sex operations.
Human trafficking from other countries draws the attention of the ICE, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security and can be prosecuted under several statutes. Domestic human trafficking largely – but not exclusively – involves the sex trade. It is commonly investigated by state law enforcement agencies and multi-jurisdictional task forces, as well as the FBI.
In addition to federal human trafficking charges, the purposes of the trafficking offense that is committed can produce underlying federal charges such as prostitution, the creation and distribution of child pornography, and if applicable, kidnapping when victims are forced to work in the sex or pornography trades. Other federal charges that may accompany any of the above allegations can include violations of the RICO statute (racketeering), money laundering, and conspiracy statutes. A DC federal human trafficking lawyer can explain how these different federal statutes may come into play in your case.
Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA), which applies to cases tried in federal courts. Each state has since passed its own legislation to handle human trafficking cases within its borders. And although a few of the many federal statutes that address the underlying crimes associated with human trafficking are listed above, it is not difficult for the Department of Justice to involve itself in any human trafficking case any time it chooses.
The TVPA outlines the differences between labor trafficking and sex trafficking, and how the two general categories are defined, investigated, and pursued in court. Sex trafficking involves the recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining a person for purposes of prostitution. It involves any sexual activity that is exchanged for anything of value and is applied to prostitution surrounding adults and minors, although 18 U.S. Code Section 2251 allows for much more serious penalties for these trafficking offenses than most state laws. In 2010, the Department of Justice revealed that more sex trafficking investigations and prosecutions are being pursued than those involving similar offenses for securing illegal immigrant laborers.
When someone uses force, fraud, or coercion in the course of transporting a victim for an illegal purpose, it can constitute kidnapping. Coercion includes explicit and implied threats of harm, and/or physical restraint and can involve the threat of reporting the victim to the legal system (such as the ICEon a foreign victim) in order to force that person to perform illegal acts or follow orders.
Sadly, the nature of human trafficking and individuals involved– especially those who are illegal aliens – makes some trafficking offenses difficult to detect or enforce.
Punishments usually depend on the level of participation prosecutors can prove. The lower on the chain the defendant is, and the less they may be involved in any underlying offenses, the lighter the sentences can be. This can play a crucial role in how you and your DC federal human trafficking attorney build your defense. This is also important when it comes to deciding whether to take a plea deal or not.
Direct participation in federally charged sex trafficking offense carries a maximum sentence of 20 years incarceration. If underlying offenses such as kidnapping, assault, rape (including statutory), child pornography, money laundering, or other offenses are involved, possibly longer sentences may accompany the trafficking charges.
Importing of illegal alien workers can also result in federal prison sentences of at least five and up to twenty years, depending on the circumstances surrounding the case. Human trafficking can also lead to deportation for defendants who are not U.S. citizens. Once deported to their home country, they could also face prosecution there. For more information about human trafficking and the case process, consult with a skilled DC federal human trafficking lawyer.
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