Human trafficking has quickly gained awareness in the media, in everyday households, and especially among state and federal governments. Adults and minors are trafficked in and out of the country and around to different states for the purpose of being coerced to engage in commercial sex work. Multiple aspects of the nature of human trafficking make the offense a federal crime. Therefore, people who are accused of participating in this type of federal crime need the help of an expert Fort Lauderdale human trafficking attorney to help mount a potent defense.
Human trafficking under federal law
The term “human trafficking” can refer to either sex trafficking or general labor trafficking. Sex trafficking involves the use of force, coercion, or fraud to:
- compel others to engage in commercial sex activities
- force foreign nationals to engage in commercial sex activities with a nexus to the U.S.
Adults and children can be the direct victims of human trafficking. In some cases, adults and minors are lured by traffickers through social media platforms with promises of career opportunities in modeling, entertainment, or in some cases, the adult entertainment industry. The victims are generally not told they will be forced to perform sex acts and prevented from returning home. In many cases, the victims are physically assaulted and/or battered to place the victims in fear of leaving or reporting the situation. Some minors are lured by adults who pretend to have an interest in forming a romantic relationship with the minor. Once the adult convinces the minor he or she can be trusted, the minor may then be detained and introduced to sex trafficking against his or her will. Foreign nationals are lured into sex trafficking with promises of standard, everyday job opportunities that would offer the individual the income needed to provide a better life and start over in a new country. Upon arriving in Fort Lauderdale, the victims discover the job opportunity was fraudulent and they are forced into labor and/or sex work. There are multiple criminal activities that are often involved in human trafficking operations; therefore, a person who is accused of human trafficking may also face several charges for related offenses, depending on the nature of the crime.
Do not say anything that might incriminate you. Speak with an attorney first.
It’s human trafficking if…
Human trafficking is directly prohibited under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act or TVPA. The TVPA does not require coercion to be overt in order for a person to be charged with human trafficking under the act. Coercion can be subtle, psychological, or physical, but it must be used to persuade the victim to provide commercial sexual services in the case of sex trafficking. People who are convicted of sex trafficking under TVPA may serve three to eight years in prison. However, there are several aggravating factors that may lead to conviction for a longer sentence. Some aggravating factors include:
- the defendant also kidnapped the victim
- the defendant committed sexual assault against the victim
- the defendant has a prior conviction for human trafficking
- the defendant has a pattern of continued violations
- the victim suffered bodily harm during the offense
- the defendant used or threatened to use a dangerous weapon while committing the offense
- the offense resulted in death or bodily injury
- the victim was held for more than 180 days
- more than one victim was involved
- the defendant was a public official
How third parties can be charged
In some instances the federal government may file charges against people other than those who were directly and knowingly involved with trafficking the victim. Third parties who provide services traffickers often use may find themselves under investigation even if they had no idea human traffickers were using their service. For example, a person who rents out a house and does not live locally may have communication with the trafficker to lease the home. However, unless the trafficker discloses his intent to house trafficked people in the home, the homeowner would likely be completely unaware that a crime was taking place. In another example, a person who owns a security company might provide security equipment that is used to keep the women on the property. If no one is present when the company arrives to install the equipment, the company owner may be unaware of the trafficking situation. Nevertheless, both the homeowner and the security equipment company may be investigated by the federal government in connection with the crime. People who believe they may be under investigation for connection to a crime of which they had no awareness should immediately call a lawyer prior to agreeing to speak to law enforcement.
When to call a federal defense attorney in Fort Lauderdale
Most people’s instincts would tell them to panic if contacted by the federal government regarding a criminal investigation. However, instead of panicking, it is best to call an experienced lawyer. Calling a Fort Lauderdale human trafficking attorney as early as possible can help people who are under investigation and those who have been formally charged avoid the risk of unnecessary self-incrimination that is often very high early in the case when people are in shock and prone to nervousness and panic. A federal sex crimes attorney in Fort Lauderdale can help his or her client feel more at ease by being present during all conversations with federal agents by helping the client understand what is happening and give advice regarding the most favorable way to respond at every step in the legal process.