Human Trafficking and U.S. Federal Task Force

Slavery and trafficking are synonymous.  Human trafficking includes Philippine young women who are transported to Saudi Arabia and confined as domestic servants, as well as commercial sex operations.  Human trafficking is defined as the use of fraud, coercion or force to exercise physical and psychological control of an individual to purpose the victim into commercial sex acts, confined labor or both.  For more a world-wide perspective on human trafficking, go to: National Human Trafficking Resource Center and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. Defining criminality and prosecutions under federal laws is a three step analysis beginning with: 1) The act; 2) The means; and 3) The purpose.

Florida has a sex trafficking and human trafficking criminal statute which is quite comprehensive.  In Florida, local jurisdictions, such as Miami and Fort Lauderdale, prosecute sex trafficking and human trafficking cases under Florida criminal law.  Often, the scope of commercial sex trafficking operations crosses city and county jurisdictional lines.  A prosecutor in Fort Lauderdale cannot successfully prosecute a sex trafficking operation that is outside Broward County.  Because commercial sex operators are inter-jurisdictional operations, there is a federal task force in place.  The task force is active in Tampa, Orlando, Miami, West Palm Beach, and Fort Lauderdale.  Federal prosecutions are often undertaken when local state prosecutors decline to prosecute or refer a sex or human trafficking case to a federal task force.

Federal criminal codes 18 U.S.C §§ 1591 and 1594 are the most commonly used criminal cases filed in Federal Court.  The White-Slave Traffic Act of 1910, known as the Mann Act, outlawed prostitution and unlawful sexual activities which “cross state lines.”  Historically, the Mann Act was used to arrest and prosecute men, and women, who crossed from one state to another, and who were either unmarried or engaging in commercial sex.   The Mann Act has penalties of ten years.  The Human Trafficking Federal Statutes (18 U.S.C § 1591) prosecutions are more targeted to incarcerate operators of commercial sex enterprises in which prostitutes, both male and female, of age 14 or under are held as sex workers.  The age of the person providing commercial sex and the age of the “John” place different sentencing schemes to defendants.  The statute begins with a mandatory minimum of ten years to a 15 year minimum mandatory to life in prison.  If the age of the “John” is under 21 and the age of the sex partner is under 14, the 15 year minimums apply.   The Sentencing Guidelines provide for enhancements and a recommended sentencing range.  Please seek out more information on the guidelines for more insight into the sentencing exposure of defendants.

We have seen in recent months that increasingly the federal sex trafficking and human trafficking laws have been applied to “Johns” in greater and greater numbers.  As a criminal defense attorney, my office sees this as a disturbing trend in law enforcement.  Human trafficking and the forced enslavement of victims is a problem of international scope.  It is appropriate for federal criminal authorities to use prosecutorial resources to impact on sex traffickers.  It is an unwise allocation of federal resources to arrest individuals who respond to internet ads for escorts and are swept into the federal system.