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How Can You Defend Against Sex Trafficking Charges?

Posted by Sam Israels | May 14, 2022

California Penal Code 236.1 PC defines the serious crime of human sex trafficking as depriving somebody of their liberty with the specific intent to obtain forced labor or services.

PC 236.1 charges are also often connected to pimping and pandering, sexual exploitation of minors, extortion, and child pornography. Sex trafficking frequently involves persuading or forcing minors to engage in commercial sex for profit.

How Can You Defend Against Sex Trafficking Charges?

California is the primary source of sex trafficking cases, as reported by the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Sex trafficking is defined as “compelling or coercing someone to provide or engage in commercial sex acts through either psychological or physical means. “

In Los Angeles County, a central hub for the illegal sex trade, victims of sex trafficking are often runaway youth, homeless, mentally disabled, or people who come from abusive backgrounds.

Penal Code 236.1 PC sex trafficking and Penal Code 266h and 266i PC pimping and pandering are closely related and often charged with the same offense.

These are sexual-related serious charges with harsh penalties and will include mandatory sex offender registration defined under California Penal Code 290 PC.  Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers will review this topic further below.

What is the Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act?

California took an aggressive step to curtail and punish sex trafficking when it approved Proposition 35 in November 2012.

Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act

After its passage, law enforcement authorities committed to crack down on human trafficking, which they claimed had become a vast criminal enterprise run by the Mexican drug cartels.

Some of the essential details within Prop 35 include making sex trafficking of a minor with force or fraud punishable by up to life in prison. It increased the fines to $1.5 million for anyone convicted under this statute.

Further, Prop 35 modified the legal definition of human trafficking to include the distribution and creation of child pornography

Proposition 35 is called the “Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act” and sets up some crucial modifications to combat sex trafficking by:

  • Substantially increasing the legal penalties for defendants that were convicted of human trafficking, and
  • Greatly expanded the definition of child sexual exploitation to include distributing child pornography.

What Are California Penal Codes Related to Sex Trafficking?

There are numerous Penal Codes related to Penal Code 236.1 PC human sex trafficking that are charged along with, or instead of, the original case:

  • Penal Code 236.1(b) PC - sex trafficking for extortion, child porn, or pimping;
  • Penal Code 266 PC - abduction, enticing a child to prostitution, carnal abuse of children, and seduction;
  • Penal Code 266h PC – pimping;
  • Penal Code 266i PC – pandering;
  • Penal Code 267 PC - abducting children for youth prostitution,
  • Penal Code 311.1 PC – distributing or transporting child porn;
  • Penal Code 311.3 PC – exchange of child porn material;
  • Penal Code 311.4 PC – employment of minors for child porn;
  • Penal Code 518 PC - blackmail or extortion;
  • Penal Code 288.2 PC - sending lewd material to a minor,
  • Penal Code 288.4 PC – arrange a meeting with a minor for lewd purposes,
  • Penal Code 647(j)(4) PC - revenge porn law,
  • Penal Code 207 – kidnapping,
  • Penal Code 186.22 PC – street gang enhancement law.

What Are the Penalties for a PC 236.1 Conviction?

If convicted of any sex trafficking offenses, you face severe felony-level penalties, but they will always vary depending on the nature of your crime. In most cases, the punishments will include:  

These penalties listed above are general guidelines. Aggravated sex trafficking offenses will include more severe penalties. In the most severe cases, you could be facing life in a prison sentence.

Further, you could be facing an additional and consecutive term of five, seven, or ten years in a California state prison if you inflicted a great bodily injury (GBI) on the victim while committing or attempting to commit sex trafficking. Your sentence could also be enhanced by an additional and consecutive term of five years if you have a prior PC 236.1 human trafficking conviction.

What Are the Best Defenses for Sex Trafficking Charges?

Anyone who has been accused of sex trafficking is facing a challenging situation, and you will need to consult with the best criminal defense lawyer to review all the details.

Our experienced legal team knows how law enforcement and prosecutors will attempt to build a case against you. While every case is unique, some of the common defense strategies for sex trafficking include making the following arguments:

  • your conduct didn't deprive another person of their liberty,
  • police misconduct during the criminal investigation,
  • lack of knowledge you possessed illicit materials,
  • gaps in the evidence chain of custody,
  • you are the victim of unreasonable search and seizure,
  • you are the victim of mistaken identity,
  • entire accusations against you are false.

Prosecutors must prove every element of the crime to obtain a conviction. Perhaps we can challenge some of the crucial factors of the sex trafficking allegations and persuade the prosecution to reduce or dismiss the charges.

California Criminal Defense Attorneys

Through prefiling negotiation with law enforcement and the prosecuting agency, we might be able to avoid the formal filing of criminal charges before the first court appearance, known as a DA reject.”

Cron, Israels & Stark is a Los Angeles-based criminal defense law firm that serves people across Southern California, including Orange County, Ventura County, Riverside, and San Bernardino.

We offer a free case consultation by calling (424) 372-3112, or you can fill out our contact form.

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About the Author

Sam Israels

Sam J. Israels is a Law Firm partner with the Law Offices of Cron, Israels, & Stark. Mr. Israels received his J.D. degree from the Santa Clara University School of Law. Mr. Israels also previously worked at the Los Angeles Office of the City Attorney. He is admitted to practice law in the State o...

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