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California Human Trafficking Laws & Defense:

Penal Code 236.1

California “Human Trafficking” Laws: Penal Code 236.1

California law prohibiting human trafficking can be found at Penal Code 236.1. Human trafficking is the illegal trade in human beings for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor. Some have compared it to a modern-day form of slavery. There are two chargeable human trafficking offenses in California.

California human trafficking laws (PC 236.1) forbid a person from violating the personal liberty of another with the intent to receive forced labor or commercial sexual activity against the person’s will.

Commercial sexual activity means sexual conduct or contact between the victim and another individual from which anything of value is given or received by any person.

Violation of the personal liberty of another includes a substantial restriction on the liberty of another. This means defendant must have accomplished the restriction of liberty by means of force, dear, fraud, deceit, coercion, violence, duress, menace, or threat of unlawful injury to the victim or another person. This is evaluated under a reasonable person standard, meaning that under the circumstances a reasonable person would believe that the person making the threat would likely carry it out.

California Sex Trafficking

Sex trafficking, under California Penal Code 236.1, is the act of forcing, coercing, or transporting a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act. Sex trafficking can occur in strip clubs, brothels, online escort services or street prostitution, as well as other locations and means.

Labor Trafficking

Labor trafficking, under Penal Code 236.1, is the act of forcing a person to work for little money, or no money at all. Labor trafficking is common is sweatshops as well as legitimate businesses.

What must the prosecutor prove to convict defendant of Human Trafficking (PC 236.1)?

To prove that the defendant is guilty of human trafficking under Penal Code 236.1(a),(c)), the prosecutor must show:

  1. The defendant either deprived another person of personal liberty or violated the person’s personal liberty
  2. When the defendant did so, he/she intended to obtain forced labor or services, or commit or maintain a felony violation.
  3. When the defendant did so, the other person was under 18 years of age

Punishment for Human Trafficking in California (PC 236.1(a))

A human trafficking charge is filed as a felony. The punishment for Human Trafficking under Penal Code 236.1(a) can range from incarceration for 5, 8 or 12 years and a fine of not more than $500,000. In addition, the defendant can be made to register as a sex offender in California

Human Trafficking of a Minor (PC 236.1)

A subsection of PC 236, California also has laws prohibiting the human trafficking of minors (PC 236.1(c)).This law prohibits any person from causing or persuading a minor to engage in a commercial sex act for the purpose of producing child pornography, prostitution, or extortion.

Punishment for Human Trafficking of a Minor

Human trafficking of a minor is filed as a felony. The punishment for Human Trafficking of a Minor under PC 236.1 is typically 5, 8, or 12 years and a fine of not more than $500,000. However, when the offense involves force, fear, fraud, deceit, coercion, violence, duress, or threat of unlawful injury to the victim or another person, the punishment is more severe at 15 years to life imprisonment and a fine of not more than $500,000.

Defenses to Human Trafficking PC 236.1

No Illegal Purpose

The prosecution must prove that the defendant intended to force another person to provide labor or services. Therefore, if the defendant is able to show that he/she did not intend to receive labor or other services, and there was no monetary gain to the defendant from the labor or services of the victim, this may be a viable defense.

No Violation of Personal Liberty

The prosecution must also prove that the defendant deprived the victim of personal liberty, or violated the victim’s personal liberty. However, if the defendant is able to show that the alleged victim participated in activities of his/her own volition, such that there was no deprivation or violation of personal liberty, the defendant may find this a proper defense.

Closely Associated Crimes to California Human Trafficking (Penal Code 236.1)

Closely associated crimes to human trafficking (PC 236.1) include: abduction of a minor for prostitution (PC 267), seduction for prostitution (PC 266), keeping a house of prostitution (PC 315), sending a minor to a house of prostitution (PC 273(e), taking a person against that person’s will for prostitution (PC 266(a)),pimping (PC 266(b)), false imprisonment (PC 236), and kidnapping (PC 207), 236.1(b) 236.1(a) 236.1(c)(2) 

To learn more about the crime of human trafficking charged as PC 236.1 in California, including defenses to human trafficking, contact a California sex crimes criminal defense attorney today.

Criminal Defense attorney Christopher Dorado represents defendants charged with human trafficking (PC 236.1) in the county of San Bernardino, including the cities of RedlandsVictorvilleFontanaRancho CucamongaRialtoColtonOntarioYucaipaRiverside, and more.

There is no charge for initial consultations and our office offers 24/7 emergency service. 909.913.3138

The Law of California Human Trafficking PC 236.1

236. False imprisonment is the unlawful violation of the personal liberty of another.

236.1. (a) Any person who deprives or violates the personal liberty of another with the intent to obtain forced labor or services, is guilty of human trafficking and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for 5, 8, or 12 years and a fine of not more than five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000).

(b) Any person who deprives or violates the personal liberty of another with the intent to effect or maintain a violation of Section 266, 266h, 266i, 266j, 267, 311.1, 311.2, 311.3, 311.4, 311.5, 311.6, or 518 is guilty of human trafficking and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for 8, 14, or 20 years and a fine of not more than five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000).

(c) Any person who causes, induces, or persuades, or attempts to cause, induce, or persuade, a person who is a minor at the time of commission of the offense to engage in a commercial sex act, with the intent to effect or maintain a violation of Section 266, 266h, 266i, 266j, 267, 311.1, 311.2, 311.3, 311.4, 311.5, 311.6, or 518 is guilty of human trafficking. A violation of this subdivision is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison as follows: (1) Five, 8, or 12 years and a fine of not more than five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000). (2) Fifteen years to life and a fine of not more than five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000) when the offense involves force, fear, fraud, deceit, coercion, violence, duress, menace, or threat of unlawful injury to the victim or to another person.

(d) In determining whether a minor was caused, induced, or persuaded to engage in a commercial sex act, the totality of the circumstances, including the age of the victim, his or her relationship to the trafficker or agents of the trafficker, and any handicap or disability of the victim, shall be considered.

(e) Consent by a victim of human trafficking who is a minor at the time of the commission of the offense is not a defense to a criminal prosecution under this section.

(f) Mistake of fact as to the age of a victim of human trafficking who is a minor at the time of the commission of the offense is not a defense to a criminal prosecution under this section.

(g) The Legislature finds that the definition of human trafficking in this section is equivalent to the federal definition of a severe form of trafficking found in Section 7102(8) of Title 22 of the United States Code.

(h) For purposes of this chapter, the following definitions apply: (1) "Coercion" includes any scheme, plan, or pattern intended to cause a person to believe that failure to perform an act would result in serious harm to or physical restraint against any person; the abuse or threatened abuse of the legal process; debt bondage; or providing and facilitating the possession of any controlled substance to a person with the intent to impair the person's judgment. (2) "Commercial sex act" means sexual conduct on account of which anything of value is given or received by any person. (3) "Deprivation or violation of the personal liberty of another" includes substantial and sustained restriction of another's liberty accomplished through force, fear, fraud, deceit, coercion, violence, duress, menace, or threat of unlawful injury to the victim or to another person, under circumstances where the person receiving or apprehending the threat reasonably believes that it is likely that the person making the threat would carry it out. (4) "Duress" includes a direct or implied threat of force, violence, danger, hardship, or retribution sufficient to cause a reasonable person to acquiesce in or perform an act which he or she would otherwise not have submitted to or performed; a direct or implied threat to destroy, conceal, remove, confiscate, or possess any actual or purported passport or immigration document of the victim; or knowingly destroying, concealing, removing, confiscating, or possessing any actual or purported passport or immigration document of the victim. (5) "Forced labor or services" means labor or services that are performed or provided by a person and are obtained or maintained through force, fraud, duress, or coercion, or equivalent conduct that would reasonably overbear the will of the person. (6) "Great bodily injury" means a significant or substantial physical injury. (7) "Minor" means a person less than 18 years of age. (8) "Serious harm" includes any harm, whether physical or nonphysical, including psychological, financial, or reputational harm, that is sufficiently serious, under all the surrounding circumstances, to compel a reasonable person of the same background and in the same circumstances to perform or to continue performing labor, services, or commercial sexual acts in order to avoid incurring that harm.

(i) The total circumstances, including the age of the victim, the relationship between the victim and the trafficker or agents of the trafficker, and any handicap or disability of the victim, shall be factors to consider in determining the presence of "deprivation or violation of the personal liberty of another," "duress," and "coercion" as described in this section.

236.2. Law enforcement agencies shall use due diligence to identify all victims of human trafficking, regardless of the citizenship of the person. When a peace officer comes into contact with a person who has been deprived of his or her personal liberty, a minor who has engaged in a commercial sex act, a person suspected of violating subdivision (a) or (b) of Section 647, or a victim of a crime of domestic violence or sexual assault, the peace officer shall consider whether the following indicators of human trafficking are present: (a) Signs of trauma, fatigue, injury, or other evidence of poor care. (b) The person is withdrawn, afraid to talk, or his or her communication is censored by another person. (c) The person does not have freedom of movement. (d) The person lives and works in one place. (e) The person owes a debt to his or her employer. (f) Security measures are used to control who has contact with the person. (g) The person does not have control over his or her own government-issued identification or over his or her worker immigration documents.

236.3.(b) Any person who inflicts great bodily injury on a victim in the commission or attempted commission of a violation of Section 236.1 shall be punished by an additional and consecutive term of imprisonment in the state prison for 5, 7, or 10 years.

(c) Any person who has previously been convicted of a violation of any crime specified in Section 236.1 shall receive an additional and consecutive term of imprisonment in the state prison for 5 years for each additional conviction on charges separately brought and tried.


Criminal Defense Attorney California Human Trafficking Law PC 236.1

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