Will I Go to Jail if Charged with Human Trafficking?
California Penal Code 236.1 PC defines the serious crime of human trafficking as depriving someone of their personal liberty with intent to obtain forced services, including pimping and pandering and child pornography.
In 2012, voters passed Proposition 35, which is call 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 human trafficking to include child pornography distribution, while providing much harsher penalties.
For example, anyone who is convicted for human trafficking children can be sentenced to a life sentence in a California state prison.
A PC 236.1 human trafficking conviction requires a to defendant to register as a sex offender pursuant to 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:
- persuade a person to do something using force or threats,
- which can often be subtle, physical threats, lies, or even psychological manipulation.
Any type of exploitation of a minor for commercial sexual activity will always be charged as a human trafficking crime, even when no coercion was used.
For more information, our Los Angeles sex crime defense lawyers are providing an overview below.
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 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 personal liberty
You “deprive” someone’s person’s liberty (CALCRIM 1243) when there is a sustained restriction of their freedom using:
- threat of injury.
Under California law, the person who is receiving the threats must have a reasonable belief the person making the threats would actually 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 personal 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 relating to women who are getting involved with prostitution and the authorities capturing the men.
These men are somehow involved with the movement of the women for purposes of prostitution. Now they have this PC 236.1 human trafficking charge.
Normally, you would think that has to do with some sort of alien smuggling or something, but in today’s world human trafficking is a big-ticket crime involving basically prostitution and the movement of women.
Most of the time prosecutors are going to try to put somebody in prison or even jail who is attempting to deal with women, move them around from one state or county to another for purposes of prostitution.
Minors under 18 years old
Usually, where this really gets serious is when one of the women is under age. If somebody’s under the age of 18 in California, and they’re being exploited and used for purposes of prostitution, and the authorities find out about it, they’re going to arrest anybody involved with that and that person is going to 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 getting caught in police sting prostitution rings where women are under age and they’re being used for sex and the authorities are getting people’s phones and text messages and people are giving information.
Some of the biggest politicians are being taken down by some of these cases. This is the big, hot crime now and if they convict you of it, either at the state or federal level, they’re definitely going to try to send you to prison.
Defenses to Avoid Jail in Human Trafficking Cases
Some ways to try 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 really doesn’t make sense a lot of the time and they’re trying to force it under this umbrella.
Women running their own operation
Another argument that sometimes holds water with the prosecutors is that the women that are involved are running their own 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 or not.
So that’s one of the things that the prosecutors will certainly 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’re going to look at their overall criminal background when deciding whether this is a candidate for prison or probation.
Even if you get probation in one of these California human trafficking cases, you could still be facing up to a year in the county jail. In Los Angeles county that time is less than what you would normally do.
So, for example, if you get a year, a lot of times people are serving only 10% or 25% of their time because of the overcrowding, the Coronavirus and a number of 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, then of course 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 cases, including:
- you did not deprive the alleged victim of their personal liberty,
- misconduct by law enforcement,
- mistake of fact,
- false accusation.
You might not be able to be found completely not guilty, but certainly prosecutors look at weaknesses in their case and they’re supposed to do that in deciding what type of a resolution to give a particular defendant.
So, probably your best bet to put you in the best position, is to hire a great criminal defense attorney.
I’ve been doing this now for almost three decades. I’ve 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 to — and you need somebody on your side who is going to 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 are highly experienced criminal defense attorneys 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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