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Human Trafficking in California

According to California Penal Code Section 236.1, the crime of human trafficking is depriving another person of his personal liberty with the specific intent to obtain forced labor or to violate California’s child pornography, California laws against extortion and blackmail or pimping and pandering laws; persuading or trying to persuade a minor to engage in commercial sex acts.

Forced labor or services: California Penal Code Section 236.1(a):

Prosecutor must prove the following elements for convicting a person under Penal Code 236.1(a):

  • Defendant deprived another one of his personal liberty or violated that person’s personal liberty. Depriving or violating someone’s personal liberty is defined as a sustained restriction of that person’s liberty through deceit, coercion, duress, force and fraud, violence, or threat of injury.
  • Defendant had an intention to obtain forced labor or service.

Human trafficking for purposes of pimping, child pornography, or extortion: California Penal Code Section 236.1(b)

Prosecutor must prove the following elements for convicting a person under Penal Code 236.1(b):

  • Defendant deprived another one of his personal liberty or violated that person’s personal liberty
  • Defendant had an intention to commit one of the following crimes associated with Penal Code Section 236.1(b):
  • Enticing a female under the age of 18 to engage in prostitution: California Penal Code Section 266
  • Pimping: California Penal Code Section 266h
  • Pandering: California Penal Code Section 266i
  • Procurement of a child under the age of 16 for lewd or lascivious acts: California Penal Code Section 266j
  • Abduction of a person under the age of 18 for purposes of prostitution: California Penal Code Section 267
  • Transporting or distributing child pornography: California Penal Code Section 311.1 or 311.2
  • Developing, duplicating, printing, or exchanging child pornography: California Penal Code Section 311.3
  • Employing minors to participate in child pornography: California Penal Code Section 311.4
  • Advertising obscene material: California Penal Code Section 311.5
  • Production of obscene live performances: California Penal Code Section 311.6,
  • Extortion/blackmail: California Penal Code Section 518.

Causing a minor to engage in commercial sex: California Penal Code Section 236.1(c)

Prosecutor must prove the following elements for convicting a person under Penal Code 236.1(c):

  • Defendant caused, persuaded, or induced or a minor to engage in a commercial sex act. Defendant can be convicted even if he was honestly mistaken about the victim’s age.
  • Defendant had an intention to commit one of the crimes associated with Penal Code Section 236.1(b):

Legal Defenses to California Penal Code Section 236.1

A person hasn’t violated personal liberty

To convict a person under Penal Code Section 236.1 the prosecutor has to prove that he deprived the victim of his personal liberty. In case the person can prove that the alleged victim willfully participated and there was no deprivation of personal liberty, he can’t be found guilty of this crime.

False Accusation

In some human trafficking cases, a defendant can prove that the alleged victim made the accusation against him for motives of favorable treatment, out of anger,  gaining sympathy, or jealously.

Penalties for violating California Penal Code Section 236.1 Human Trafficking

In California law, Human Trafficking is always a felony.

Penalties for violating Penal Code Section 236.1(a) are the following:

  • Five, eight, or twelve years in California state prison
  • A fine of up to $500,000.
  • Felony probation

Penalties for violating Penal Code Section 236.1(b) are the following

  • Eight, fourteen, or twenty years in California state prison
  • A fine of up to $500,000
  • The requirement to register as a sex offender.
  • Felony probation

Penalties for violating Penal Code Section 236.1(c) are the following

  • Five, eight, or twelve years in California state prison. In case the defendant committed the crime through deceit, coercion, duress, force and fraud, violence, or threat of injury then the prison sentence will increase to fifteen years to life.
  • A fine of up to $500,000
  • The requirement to register as a sex offender
  • Felony probation

Additional penalties for great bodily injury

In case the defendant inflicted great bodily injury on a victim he will face an additional term of five, seven, or ten years in prison.

Additional penalties for prior convictions

In case the defendant had prior convictions for violating California Penal Code 236.1 he will face an additional prison term of five years for each prior violation.

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