Criminal Charges under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (Human Trafficking)
22 U.S. Code Chapter 78 (NCGS § 14-43)
Federal lawmakers reauthorized the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, or TVPA, as part of the Violence Against Women Act in 2013. The TVPA was originally passed in 2000 and signed into law by President Bill Clinton.
Under 22 U.S. Code § 7109, the Sentencing Commission is authorized to mete out punishment to “adequately reflect the heinous nature” of human trafficking offenses. As such, individuals charged with these offenses face harsh punishment, with enhancements in cases that involve a large number of victims, repeat offenses, the use of a dangerous weapon, and/or death or injury of the victim.
18 U.S. Code § 1591
In addition to the TVPA, there are several statutes on the books that punish various forms of human trafficking. 18 U.S. Code § 1591 is one such statute. It punishes sex trafficking of children. On the low end of the punishment spectrum, those convicted of an offense face a minimum of 10 to 15 years in prison. The high end is life in prison. In sentencing, the language “any term of years” in the statute means that judges generally have plenty of discretion. In other words, a judge could very well decide to impose a sentence well above the mandatory minimum of 15 years.
A number of government agencies enforce the TVPA and related laws, including the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, and the State Department.
The Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, housed with the State Department, has the mission to prosecute, protect victims, and prevent trafficking. In general, the government characterizes human trafficking as modern slavery, in which victims are recruited, harbored, transported, provided, or obtained for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through force, fraud, or coercion.
Different Categories of Human Trafficking
The Office describes various categories of human trafficking. These include:
- Sex trafficking
- Child sex trafficking
- Forced labor
- Forced child labor
- Bonded labor/debt bondage
- Domestic servitude
- Unlawful recruitment/use of child soldiers
2016 Trafficking in Persons Report
The State Department publishes a regular ” Trafficking in Persons Report,” which describes the conditions of human trafficking in countries around the world by alphabetical order, including the U.S.
According to the 2016 Report:
“The United States is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, transgender individuals, and children – both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals – subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor.”
Number of Investigations, Prosecutions Growing
The Report says that penalties under the TVPA are “sufficiently stringent” and include the possibility of life in prison. In 2015, the government created six new Anti-Trafficking Coordination Teams, located in major cities throughout the U.S., along with several taskforces made up of local, state, and federal law enforcement – all in an effort to step up prosecution of human trafficking offenses.
Indeed, in the last couple of years we’ve seen increases in human trafficking investigations and charges:
- DHS opened 1,034 investigations in 2015 (up from 987 in 2014).
- In 2015, the DOJ charged 377 people with sex trafficking and labor trafficking (up from 335 defendants in 2014).
- Finally, the DOJ convicted 297 people in 2015, as compared to 184 the year prior.
If these trends continue – and there is evidence that they will – we at Roberts Law Group expect more people to face investigation and prosecution for human trafficking in 2017 and beyond.
Facing Charges for Human Trafficking?
If you are under investigation or have been charged with a human trafficking offense under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, act now for your defense. The threat of government prosecution is growing. The punishment, if the government convicts you, is very serious.
U.S. vs. J.R.
Charge: Mail Fraud (9 Counts), Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud
Facing: Three years in prison
Result: One year, One day
Our client was convicted of nine counts of mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud. The government alleged that our client fraudulently obtained more than $115,000 from her former employer. At the sentencing hearing, the Judge granted our motion for a downward departure, sentencing our client to one year and one day. The government had asked the judge to sentence our client to several years.