Florida state law
Florida law describes human trafficking as a situation in which a person knowingly, or with reckless disregard of the facts, engages in or reaps a financial benefit from transportation, solicitation, recruitment, harboring, provision, enticement, maintenance, or the obtaining of another person for the purpose of exploiting that person for labor, services, or commercial sexual activity. In cases involving adult victims, the state must prove the victim was coerced into performing the labor or sexual activity for which he or she was exploited. Proof of coercion is not required in cases that involve child victims. Therefore, exploiting a child for labor, services, or sexual activity automatically meets the statutory definition of human trafficking. The state attorney general has vowed to make Florida a zero tolerance state in matters involving human trafficking. Therefore, law enforcement, other first-responders, advocacy groups, businesses, and healthcare organizations are increasingly working together to combat the issue.
About the victims
Those who become victims of human trafficking may come from nearly any background. However, individuals who have certain characteristics are statistically much more likely to be victimized by traffickers. These people include:
- Runaway teens
- Homeless individuals
- Drug addicts
- Abused and/or neglected children
Avoiding criminal involvement in human trafficking is oftentimes as simple as recognizing the signs that something is amiss. Adults should especially avoid illegal activity that involves anyone who is underage. Businesses may find it wise to refuse transactions that require transporting or facilitating involvement between random adults and children, refugees, or anyone who generally appears to be present against his or her will. Sometimes even marginal players may find themselves facing human trafficking charge for a situation in which they were unaware trafficking was taking place. Individuals who are being investigated or wrongfully charged with human trafficking should immediately contact a West Palm Beach human trafficking defense attorney to discuss options for protecting the individual’s reputation and proving his or her innocence.
Proving trafficking in court
There are certain elements Florida prosecutors must prove in court before an accused person may be convicted of human trafficking. The attorney for the state must show the defendant engaged or attempted to participate in harboring, recruiting, obtaining, providing, or soliciting another human for transport and had the intention and knowledge the person would be coerced into forced labor, sexual exploitation, or prostitution. Prosecutor may also prove a defendant is guilty of human trafficking by establishing that he or she benefited financially or was otherwise compensated with something of value as a result of a human being being subjected to forced labor, sexual exploitation, or prostitution.
There are several defenses an accused person may raise in response to being accused of human trafficking. Someone who is caught engaging in commercial sexual transactions involving an adult who willingly exchanges sex for monetary benefit may argue they are participating in prostitution, but deny involvement in human trafficking. Prostitution is illegal in nearly every state, but the related penalties are much less severe than sentencing that is imposed on those who are found guilty of human trafficking. Instead of being convicted of human trafficking, a person who pays for sexual services may be found guilty of solicitation while the individual who arranges the transaction for monetary benefit may be convicted of pimping and pandering. In order to argue prostitution as a defense, there must be an absence of coercion and exploitation. The situation must also not involve children. In other cases, people who are in the business of providing services like transportation and lodging have increasingly faced human trafficking charges despite having a complete lack of awareness of the illegal activity. To avoid conviction, people who play a limited role by unknowingly providing services that facilitate human trafficking must prove they reasonably lacked knowledge of facts that would point to human trafficking taking place.
Human trafficking charges carry very strict sentencing, which may include decades in prison in some cases. Severity of sentencing depends on the element of coercion, whether the trafficking involved the exchange of labor, services, or commercialized sex, and whether the victim was a child, person of unauthorized immigration status, or disabled person. The minimum sentencing for the trafficking of labor, services, or commercial sexual activity is 21 months imprisonment. Sentences may vary to include up to 30 years of probation, a $10,000 fine, and a maximum of 30 years in prison. The maximum penalty for trafficking a child or person with mental disability or defect is life imprisonment. Lesser punishments may include life on probation and a $10,000 fine.
Call a Palm Beach County attorney
Human trafficking is a very serious crime that carries severe consequences. Being accused of participating in trafficking can instantly damage an individual’s reputation or that of his or her place of business. In addition to social damage, wrongful convictions do sometimes happen and may easily mean decades of prison or probation, especially in cases that involve mentally disabled people or children. Therefore, anyone who is wrongfully accused of human trafficking should contact a lawyer immediately, even prior to speaking to police if possible. An innocent person may easily make statements that can ultimately complicate his or her case and be repeated in court. A West Palm Beach human trafficking defense lawyer can help people who are wrongfully accused build an effective defense and clear his or her name.