Human Trafficking In California


Slavery may have been made illegal in this country 150 years ago, but it is still a wide-spread problem in this country. Yes, there are many people in the United States who are held captive and forced to work for no wages or worse, forced into prostitution. It’s not called slavery anymore; it’s called “human trafficking,” but it’s slavery just the same.

Human traffickers often lure their victims to the United States from third world countries. They prey on poor young men and women promising them a good job in a factory or similar work in the U.S., only to then smuggle the victim to this country and hold them captive while forcing them to provide free labor, such as domestic services, or to work in the sex trade, the proceeds of which go to the victim’s’ captors. Not all human traffickers’ victims are from other countries. Human traffickers also lure young runaways into the sex trade or coerce them into performing illegal activities for the trafficker .

You might wonder how a person can be held captive and forced to perform free labor or engage in commercial sex when this is a free county. Regardless of how the trafficker operates, the victims are always targeted because they are vulnerable and easy to coerce. Often the victim is a minor and almost always the victim has no financial resources of his or her own. Victims who are smuggled from other countries are often unable to speak English or understand how to get help in this country. The trafficker might keep the victim in a drugged stupor or even get the victim addicted to drugs, thereby creating the victim’s dependence on the trafficker. Sometimes the traffickers will use threats of violence or death against their victims.

Recently a man and woman were arrested here in Orange County for human trafficking. As is the case with most human traffickers, there were several victims. The traffickers were alleged to have forced a 15 year-old girl and three other minors into prostitution. The 15-year-old., a runaway, reported to the police that she and the other victims were threatened with a gun.

Human trafficking not only violates a number of common criminal laws in California, but also carries additional penalties unique to the crime. Penal Code section 236.1 specifically punishes anyone who is found guilty of depriving or violating “the personal liberty of another with the intent to obtain forced labor or services.” This crime carries a punishment of imprisonment for up to 12 years and a fine of up to $500,000. The punishment is even more severe if the human trafficker’s victim or victims are minors and can result in a prison sentence of up to 20 years. If the victim was a minor and the trafficker persuaded, or even attempted to persuade, the victim to engage in prostitution or other sex acts for money, the sentence can be up to life imprisonment.

This is a very serious crime but sometimes the charges are not warranted. For example, it might happen that a disgruntled live-in nanny or domestic servant alleges human trafficking against his or her employer when in fact the employee was free to leave, yet the authorities may be all too zealous to prosecute. Or perhaps a prostitute becomes so dependent on her pimp that she believes she is not free to leave her “job” when in fact, she can. The arrangement might be illegal but it is not human trafficking.

If you have been accused of human trafficking, you are facing a very serious charge and you should consult an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. If you have any questions regarding this or any other criminal defense matter, please feel free to contact us at or 949-474-8008.