Fighting Federal Sex Trafficking and Prostitution Charges in California

Fighting Federal Sex Trafficking and Prostitution Charges in California

Being charged with federal sex crimes in California can be really scary. The laws are super complex and the penalties are harsh. But having an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side can help even the odds.

In this article, we’ll break down the common charges for sex trafficking and prostitution in California. We’ll also talk about potential defenses and sentencing. Our goal is to help you understand what you’re up against so you can start building your case.

Common Federal Charges for Sex Trafficking and Prostitution

There are a few main laws used to charge folks with sex trafficking and prostitution at the federal level. Here’s an overview:

  • Sex Trafficking of Children or by Force, Fraud, or Coercion (18 U.S.C. § 1591) – This law makes it illegal to recruit, harbor, transport, or broker a minor (under 18) for commercial sex. It also bans sex trafficking of adults through force, fraud, or coercion. Penalties range from 10 years to life in prison.
  • Transportation for Illegal Sexual Activity (18 U.S.C. § 2421) – This bans transporting someone across state or international lines for prostitution or other illegal sex acts. It carries up to 10 years in prison.
  • Travel to Engage in Illicit Sexual Conduct (18 U.S.C. § 2423) – This law prohibits traveling for the purpose of engaging in illegal sexual conduct, like sex tourism. Penalties go up to 30 years in prison if the victim is a minor.
  • Use of Interstate Facilities to Promote Prostitution (18 U.S.C. § 1952) – This covers using mail, internet, or other interstate channels to operate a prostitution business. Convictions can lead to up to 5 years imprisonment.

There are also state laws in California that prohibit sex trafficking, pimping, pandering, and child pornography distribution (PC 236.1, 266h, 266i, 311.11).

With federal sex crime charges, prosecutors often stack multiple counts and demand severe punishments. That’s why building an aggressive defense is so critical.

Fighting Back Against Sex Trafficking and Prostitution Charges

The good news is there are viable defenses to many federal sex crime charges. Here are some of the most effective strategies:

  • Contesting intent – For crimes like sex trafficking, you can argue the prosecution can’t prove you intended to traffic victims. Maybe you had no idea commercial sex acts were taking place.
  • Disputing coercive tactics – If charged with trafficking by force or coercion, you may be able to show the alleged victims participated willingly without threats.
  • Challenging interstate nexus – For charges requiring interstate travel or commerce, you could claim the activity happened strictly within state lines.
  • Questioning constitutionality – Some federal prostitution laws have faced constitutional challenges under the 1st Amendment, Commerce Clause, and 10th Amendment.
  • Attacking procedural flaws – Look for issues like lack of probable cause, improper searches, Miranda violations, and more.

In addition, sentencing mitigation is extremely important in federal sex crime cases. Unlike state charges, federal cases have mandatory minimums that kick in upon conviction. The only way around them is providing evidence of mitigating factors like:

  • Minimal criminal history
  • Proof of rehabilitation
  • Mental health or addiction issues
  • Cooperation with prosecutors
  • Exceptional good works and character

Presenting compelling mitigation to the judge at sentencing could make the difference between years behind bars versus probation.

The Importance of an Aggressive Legal Strategy

As you can see, defending against federal sex crime charges in California takes experience and creativity. The prosecution typically starts off with the upper hand, pushing for the harshest punishments permitted under the law.

But an aggressive lawyer can even the playing field by identifying constitutional issues, challenging evidence, presenting mitigating circumstances, and negotiating for reduced charges. The stakes are simply too high not to have a seasoned legal fighter on your side.

If you or a loved one faces federal criminal charges related to sex trafficking or prostitution in California, don’t leave your fate to chance. Contact an experienced federal sex crimes attorney today to discuss your best defense. With targeted legal strategies and tireless advocacy, you can potentially avoid harsh mandatory minimum sentences – and even win outright dismissal of charges in some cases. Don’t wait to get started.


Here are the references used in this article: