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Sex Trafficking + Laws, Charges & Statute of Limitations

When watching a television show or movie, pimps are portrayed as being suave, sophisticated, and living lives filled with fancy cars and gold jewelry. In addition, the men or women they have working for them as prostitutes are viewed as being adults who are choosing to engage in the profession. Unfortunately, these portrayals are very much the opposite of reality. In most situations, men and women are forced into prostitution by threats or acts of violence, which constitutes the very serious crime of sex trafficking.

Sex Trafficking and the Law
Though there are various forms of sex trafficking, most fall into what authorities view as “severe forms.” These usually involve the use of minors as prostitutes, trafficking via force or threats of violence, and human slavery. Overall, sex trafficking is defined as recruiting, transporting, harboring, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting someone so that a commercial sex act can occur. Covered under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, sex trafficking is also covered under various statutes in most states.

Complex and Serious Offense
When a sex trafficking case comes across the desk of a prosecutor, they know it will be a complex and serious case that must be given the highest priority. Due to various types of evidence that will need to be scrutinized in order to make sure a defendant is charged with the correct crime, these cases can take weeks or months to put together. Along the way, prosecutors will especially look to see if the severity of possible punishments should be made higher, such as if the trafficking involved minors or if victims suffered bodily harm.

Punishments for Sex Trafficking
If a defendant is found guilty of sex trafficking, the punishments will almost undoubtedly be very harsh. When a prison term is part of the sentence, it will range from a minimum of 15 years to as much as a life sentence. Also, fines can be as much as $1.5 million, and the defendant will likely be a registered sex offender for the remainder of their life. Finally, the court may also order the defendant to provide information regarding any online identities as well as any internet access they had for their sex trafficking activities. As a twist of irony, the fines obtained from these convictions are often given back to local communities in an effort to provide financial support to law enforcement agencies and also sex trafficking victim services and related organizations.

Sentencing Guidelines
Since courts and prosecutors are determined to hold sex traffickers accountable for their actions, sentencing guidelines are very strict and harsh in these matters. In many cases where minors were used, a charge of rape may be implied. Along with this, the victim’s mental ability is also taken into account, as are such things as whether or not multiple victims were involved, the defendant had prior sex trafficking offenses, if victims suffered bodily harm, and the length of time victims were made to remain in their situation. Due to the desire for sentencing consistency in these cases, judges usually allow few if any mitigating factors to influence them prior to handing down their sentence.

Statute of Limitations
Just as it is with many other crimes, different states have varying guidelines regarding their statute of limitations for sex trafficking. Yet in all states, it is common for all cases that have victims under age 18 not starting the count on the statute of limitations until the victim reaches age 24.

A Thriving Industry
Sadly, sex trafficking is a thriving and ever-growing industry in the United States. According to most sex trafficking victim organizations, at least 100,000 children are trafficked into the U.S. annually, with many experts putting the actual figure closer to 300,000. Also, it is a multi-billion dollar industry, with larger cities such as Atlanta estimated to have a sex trafficking industry worth nearly $300 million alone. Due to the staggering amounts of money involved and the hundreds of thousands of victims involved, law enforcement fights very hard to see arrests made and prosecutors fight equally hard to see defendants convicted. However, even with these vigorous actions taking place, it is still considered an uphill battle to find and help all victims of sex trafficking.

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