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Human Trafficking

Human Trafficking Laws – California Penal Code 236.1 PC

A human trafficking offense is covered under California Penal Code Section 236.1 and is described as an unlawful trade in human beings against their will for commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor.

The term “commercial sexual exploitation” means receiving something of value from forced sexual behavior of someone else. In the context of PC 236.1, “force” includes duress, fear, or threats of violence.

For example, human trafficking in California often involves situations where a “pimp” will have several prostitutes working under threats of force – and will then confiscate their earnings.

Back in 2012, California voters passed strict human trafficking laws under Proposition 35 – which is commonly known as the “Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act.”

This law expanded the legal description to include distribution of child pornography. It also included more severe legal penalties for any person who is convicted for human trafficking, such as a conviction that involves children carries a life sentence in a California state prison. It would also require registration as a sex offender for life.

Prop 35 also allows a judge to impose a fine up to $1,000,000 – based on the seriousness of the crime, amount of loss by a victim, and amount of monetary gain received from human trafficking. It's also possible for the victim to pursue a civil lawsuit for damages.

Pimping and pandering laws under California Penal Code 266h & 266i deal with the facilitation of – and receiving financial compensation from acts of commercial sex.

If you are facing Penal Code 236.1 human trafficking allegations, contact the Los Angeles criminal defense law firm of Cron, Israels & Stark to review the details and legal options.

To give readers some useful information about human trafficking laws under PC 236.1, our criminal defense lawyers are providing an overview below.

Definition of Penal Code 236.1 Human Trafficking

Human trafficking and false imprisonment is defined under California Penal Code 236.1 as follows:

  • Depriving anyone of their personal liberty with specific intent to obtain forced labor or to violate California's child pornography or pimping and pandering laws, or persuading or even an attempt to persuade a minor to become engage in commercial sex acts

The term “depriving anyone of their personal liberty” means there is a sustained restriction of their freedom by use of fraud, deceit, coercion, violence, duress, or a threat of injury.

California Penal Code 236.1(b) defines human trafficking for the purpose of child pornography or pimping. This statute describes depriving anyone of their personal liberty with intent to commit specific California crimes, including:

Penal Code 266h – Pimping
Penal Code 266i – Pandering
Penal Code 266j – Procuring a child under 16 lewd or lascivious acts
Penal Code 267 – Abduction of anyone under 18 for prostitution
Penal Code 311.1 – Transportation or distribution of child pornography
Penal Code 311.3 – Developing or exchanging child pornography
Penal Code 311.4 – Employing minors for child pornography
Penal Code 311.5 – Advertising obscene material
Penal Code 311.6 – Producing obscene live performances

California Penal Code 236.1(c) defines causing a minor to engage in commercial sex acts. This statute makes it a crime to cause or persuade a minor to participate in commercial sex acts – also with the intent to commit the California crimes listed above.

You could still face criminal charges even in cases where you made an honest mistake about the age of the minor.

What are the Penalties? 

If convicted of PC 236.1 human trafficking, penalties will depend on the specific statute you violated – but it's always a felony crime.

If convicted of Penal Code 236.1(a), depriving anyone of their liberty with intent to obtain forced labor or services, you will be facing up to 12 years in a California state prison and a fine up to $500,000.

If convicted of Penal Code 236.1(b), depriving anyone of their liberty with intent to commit pimping, pandering, child pornography, or extortion, you will be facing up to 20 years in prison and a fine up to $500,000.

A conviction also means you will be required to register as a sex offender for life under Penal Code 290, California's Sex Offender Registration Act.

If convicted of Penal Code 236.1(c), persuading a minor to participate in commercial sex acts, you will be facing five, eight, or twelve years in state prison and a fine up to $500,000 – along with lifetime sex offender registration.

It should be noted there are other sentencing factors listed in CALCRIM 3184 Jury Instructions. If you used force, fear, fraud, deceit, coercion, violence, or threats of injury to the minor, your penalties could be increased to 15 years to life in prison.

If you inflicted great bodily on the minor while committing a human trafficking crime, you will be facing an increased sentence of five, seven, or ten years in prison.

If you have a prior conviction for Penal Code 236.1 human trafficking, your sentence could be enhanced to an additional and consecutive five-year term in state prison for each violation.

Related California Offenses 

Penal Code 311.11 – Child Pornography
Penal Code 236 – False imprisonment
Penal Code 207 – Kidnapping
Penal Code 518 – Extortion
Penal Code 315 – Keeping a House of Prostitution
Penal Code 186.22 – Street Gang Sentencing Enhancement
Penal Code 266 - Entice a child to prostitution

Defenses for PC 236.1 Human Trafficking

Our Los Angeles sex crime attorneys can use a variety of strategies on your behalf to obtain the best possible outcome on your human trafficking charges in violation of Penal Code 236.1. Each case is unique and will first need to be closely examined in order to determine an effective strategy. The most common defenses include:

You Didn't Deprive Victim of Their Liberty

To be convicted of PC 236.1 human trafficking, the prosecutor has to be able to prove – beyond reasonable doubt – you actually deprived the victim of their personal liberty. We might be able to make a reasonable argument the alleged victim was a willing participant and there was no deprivation of their freedom.

Pimping doesn't always mean a prostitute had their freedom violated – they may have made the choice on their own. In some cases, we might be able to negotiate for a lesser offense.

False Allegation

In specific circumstances, we might be able to make a reasonable argument you are actually the victim of false accusations. The person accusing you might have a motivation to make false claims in an effort to gain sympathy, favorable treatment – or out of anger, jealously, or revenge.

A conviction for Penal Code 236.1 human traffic can result in life-changing consequences. You will need an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer on your side.

We serve clients throughout Southern California, including the greater Los Angeles area and the San Fernando Valley. Our office is located at 11755 Wilshire Blvd, 15th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90025. Contact us at 424-372-3112 for a free case evaluation.

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