Review of Sex Trafficking Crimes and Defenses in California
California Penal Code 236.1 PC defines the crime of human sex trafficking as depriving someone of their personal liberty with intent to obtain forced labor or services.
Further, sex trafficking language also includes persuading or attempting to persuade a minor to engage in a commercial sex act, with the intent to violate one of these same laws.
According to the State of California Department of Justice, California is the site of many human sex trafficking cases in the United States.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline reported that in 2018, they received word of 1,226 sex trafficking cases, as well as 110 cases that involved sex and labor trafficking.
California defines sex trafficking as:
- “compelling or coercing a person to provide or engage in commercial sex acts – through either psychological or physical means. “
In Los Angeles, the primary victims of sex trafficking tend to be homeless or runaway youth, often those who come from troubled backgrounds or have abuse in their past.
Since this is the case, the crime of sex trafficking in California often extends to pimping, pandering, and child pornography.
Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers are providing a more detailed review below.
Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act – Prop 35
The citizens of California have taken an active stance against sex trafficking in the past, specifically by voting for an act known as Proposition 35.
When voters passed Proposition 35 in November of 2012, law enforcement officials vowed to crack down on human sex trafficking, which they said was the world's fastest growing criminal enterprise.
Supporters drafted the proposition to make sex trafficking of a minor with force or fraud punishable up to life in prison.
They also increased the fine to as much as $1.5 million and expanded the definition of human trafficking to include creation and distribution of child pornography.
Proposition 35, often known as the ‘Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act,' accomplished two specific goals to counter Californian sex trafficking:
- it increased the penalties for those convicted of human trafficking, and
- it expanded the legal definition of sexual exploitation to include the distribution of child pornography.
California Penal Codes Related to Sex Trafficking
There are several Penal Codes in California that are closely related to the crime of sex trafficking, such as:
- Penal Code 236.1 (b) PC - human trafficking for the purpose of extortion, child pornography, or pimping,
- Penal Code 266 PC - contains the articles regarding rape, abduction, enticing a child to prostitution, carnal abuse of children, and seduction,
- Penal Code 266h PC – pimping,
- Penal Code 266i PC – pandering,
- Penal Code 267 PC - abducting a child for the purposes of youth prostitution,
- Penal Code 311.1 PC - distribution or transportation of child pornography,
- Penal Code 311.3 PC - exchanging or developing child pornography,
- Penal Code 311.4 PC - employing minors for the purpose of child porn,
- Penal Code 518 PC - blackmail or extortion,
- Penal Code 288.2 PC - sending lewd or harmful material to a legal minor,
- Penal Code 288.4 PC - arranging a meeting with a minor for lewd purposes,
- Penal Code 647(j)(4) PC - revenge porn,
- Penal Code 207 PC – kidnapping laws,
- Penal Code 186.22 PC – criminal street gang enhancement.
Penalties for a Sex Trafficking Conviction in California
As California considers sex trafficking a very severe crime, the penalties are often likewise quite severe. Sex trafficking is always a felony.
There are specific ramifications that will always accompany it.
However, the legal penalties will vary depending on the nature of your crime. Some examples may include:
- jail time ranging from 12-20 years,
- fines up to $500,000,
- formal felony probation,
- lifetime registration as a sex offender.
It's important to note that these are just guidelines. If you face charges for an aggravated sex trafficking crime, you may face much steeper penalties - including prison time up to a life sentence.
Great bodily injury or prior convictions enhancement
Further, in addition to these penalties above, you could face an additional, consecutive term of five, seven, or ten years in state prison if you inflicted a great bodily injury (GBI) on a victim while committing or attempting to commit a sex trafficking offense.
Finally, if you have a prior Penal Code 236.1 human trafficking conviction, your prison sentence could be enhanced by an additional and consecutive term of five years for each prior violation.
How Can I Fight California Sex Trafficking Charges in Court?
Those who were arrested and face sex trafficking charges in California are in a tough position. If you or a loved one needs to fight sex trafficking charges, you need the best criminal defense lawyers available.
Our experienced legal team will work to find a legal defense that caters to your alleged crime. Some common strategies for a sex trafficking defense include:
- arguing that your actions did not deprive another person of their liberty,
- arguing that the entire allegation against you is false,
- showing that the police exhibited misconduct while investigating against you,
- arguing that you did not know that you were in possession of illicit materials, such as child pornography,
- arguing that the conduct in question was not lewd in nature,
- showing that there are gaps in the chain of custody of the evidence the court has against you,
- demonstrating that you are the victim of unreasonable search and seizure.
We will make a careful review of all of the evidence that the prosecution has against you.
Clearly, if you are facing the very serious sex trafficking charges in California, you will need to retain our law firm as soon as possible.
We might be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to avoid the filing of formal charges through prefiling intervention.
Our criminal attorneys have experience defending those charged with sex trafficking crimes.
Eisner Gorin LLP serves people in Southern California, including Santa Barbara County, Orange County, Ventura County, Riverside, and San Bernardino.
We are located at 1999 Avenue of the Stars, 11th Fl., Los Angeles, CA 90067.
Our main office is in the San Fernando Valley at 14401 Sylvan St #112 Van Nuys, CA 91401.
Contact us at (877) 781-1570 for a free immediate response.