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Will I Go to Jail if Charged with Human Trafficking?

California Penal Code 236.1 PC defines the severe crime of human trafficking as depriving someone of their liberty with intent to obtain forced services, including pimping and pandering, and child pornography.

In 2012, voters passed Proposition 35, the “Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act,” which provides severe felony penalties for anyone convicted of Penal Code 236.1 PC.

Further, Prop 35 expanded the legal definition of human trafficking to include child pornography distribution while providing much harsher penalties.

For example, anyone convicted of the human trafficking of children can be sentenced to a life sentence in a California state prison.

A PC 236.1 human trafficking conviction requires a defendant to register as a sex offender under Penal Code 290 PC.

Use of coercion in commercial sex acts 

PC 236.1 human trafficking involves coercing somebody to provide a service, most commonly a commercial sexual-related activity.  The term “coercion” is to:

Will I Go to Jail if Charged with Human Trafficking in California?
  • persuade a person to do something using force or threats,
  • which can often be subtle, physical threats, lies, or even psychological manipulation.

Any exploitation of a minor for commercial sexual activity will always be charged as a human trafficking crime, even when no coercion was used.

Our Los Angeles sex crime defense lawyers provide an overview below for more information.

What is the Definition of Human Trafficking in California?

Penal Code 236.1 PC charges will always depend on the subsection of relevant law but can generally be defined as:

  • “any person who deprives or violates the personal liberty of someone with the intent to obtain forced services, procure them for commercial sexual activity, or exploit them in obscene matter, is guilty of human trafficking.”

Depriving someone's liberty 

You “deprive” someone's person's liberty (CALCRIM 1243) when there is a sustained restriction of their freedom using:

  • coercion,
  • fraud,
  • deceit,
  • violence,
  • threat of injury.

Under California law, the person receiving the threats must have a reasonable belief that the person making the threats would carry them out.

Underlying crimes for human trafficking 

The “elements of the crime” under Penal Code 236.1(b) are that you violated somebody's liberty with intent to commit any of the California crimes:

  • Penal Code 266h and 266i PC – pimping and pandering,
  • Penal Code 266 PC – enticing a child to engage in prostitution,
  • Penal Code 267 PC – abducting a child for prostitution,
  • Penal Code 311.1 PC – distribution of child pornography,
  • Penal Code 311.4 PC – employing minors for child pornography,
  • Penal Code 311.6 PC – production of obscene live performances,
  • Penal Code 518 PC – extortion or blackmail.

Prostitution and the Movement of Women

This is a big crime that's being charged all the time now, and it's related to women who are getting involved with prostitution and the authorities capturing the men.

These men are somehow involved with the women's movement for purposes of prostitution.  Now they have this PC 236.1 human trafficking charge.

Usually, you would think that has to do with some alien smuggling or something. Still, in today's world, human trafficking is a big-ticket crime involving basically prostitution and the movement of women.

Prostitution and the Movement of Women

Most of the time, prosecutors will try to put somebody in prison or even jail attempting to deal with women and move them from one state or county to another for prostitution.

Minors under 18 years old 

Usually, this gets serious when one of the women is underage.  If somebody's under the age of 18 in California, they're being exploited and used for purposes of prostitution. The authorities find out about it; they're going to arrest anybody involved with that. That person will be facing a lot of time in prison, depending on how old the particular victim is.

Police sting operations 

You see on the news now, all these people are getting caught in police sting prostitution rings where women are under age, and they're being used for sex. The authorities are getting people's phones and text messages and giving information.

Some of the most prominent politicians are being taken down by these cases. This is the big, hot crime now, and if they convict you of it, either at the state or federal level, they will try to send you to prison.

Defenses to Avoid Jail in Human Trafficking Cases

One way to avoid prison if you don't have any criminal record is if your attorney can convince the prosecutors that this is more of a prostitution-type case.

To put it under the umbrella of human trafficking doesn't make sense a lot of the time, and they're trying to force it under this umbrella.

Women running their operation 

Another argument that sometimes holds water with the prosecutors is that the involved women run their operations.

They don't need the men to be involved, and they're predisposed to do this anyway, and they're going to be involved in the crime whether they have a pimp.

So that's one of the things that the prosecutors will undoubtedly consider in deciding whether or not somebody goes to prison.

No criminal record 

Of course, they're also going to look at their criminal record.  They will look at their broad criminal background when deciding whether they are candidates for prison or probation.

Even if you get probation in one of these California human trafficking cases, you could still face up to a year in the county jail. In Los Angeles County, that time is less than you would typically do.

So, for example, if you get a year, people are often serving only 10% or 25% of their time because of the overcrowding, the Coronavirus, and several other factors.

Fighting PC 236.1 Human Trafficking Cases

You also have to look at whether or not you have a defense to the case. If you can defend the case and go to jury trial and get a not-guilty verdict, you're not going to go to jail or prison.

Perhaps you have some defensible issues in the case.  Our criminal defense lawyers can use a variety of common arguments to fight a human trafficking case, including:

  • you did not deprive the alleged victim of their liberty,
  • misconduct by law enforcement,
  • mistake of fact,
  • false accusation.

You might not be able to be found entirely not guilty, but certainly, prosecutors look at weaknesses in their case, and they're supposed to do that in deciding what type of

Fighting PC 236.1 Human Trafficking Cases

A resolution to give a particular defendant.

So, hiring a great criminal defense attorney is your best bet to put you in the best position.

I've been doing this now for almost three decades. I worked for the DA's office early in my career. I've been defending these sex-related offenses.

I've seen the evolution of human trafficking — where it started and where it has gone — and you need somebody on your side who will fight for you and pull out all the stops so you end up with the best resolution for your case.

You've come to the right place. Take the first step and pick up the phone. Ask for a meeting with Ronald Hedding. I stand at the ready to help you.

Hedding Law Firm is a highly experienced criminal defense attorney located in Los Angeles County at 16000 Ventura Blvd #1208 Encino, CA 91436. We offer a free case consultation at (213) 374-3952.

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Hedding Law Firm is committed to answering your questions about state or federal sex crime issues in California and throughout the United States.

I'll privately discuss your case with you at your convenience. All consultations are free, discreet, and confidential. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.