Eastern Iowa Criminal Defense Attorneys

What Is Sex Trafficking?

Sex trafficking is a federal crime that occurs when a person manipulates another to engage in commercial sex acts. “Commercial sex acts” means any type of sexual conduct engaged in for money or something of value. The victim of sex trafficking does not have to be the one who received the remuneration. The law provides that so long as any person gets compensation or benefits from the sexual conduct, such action is an offense.

A person may be alleged to have engaged in sex trafficking if they did any of the following to an adult or child for the purposes of having them perform sexual acts:

  • Recruited,
  • Enticed,
  • Harbored,
  • Transported,
  • Provided,
  • Advertised,
  • Maintained,
  • Patronized, or
  • Solicited

Sex Trafficking Does Not Always Involve Force or Violence

People might believe that to be accused of, charged with, or convicted of sex trafficking, a person must have harmed or threatened to harm the alleged victim. Some cases do involve the use of force, violence, or threats to compel a person to engage in commercial sex acts. However, such conduct is not always necessary for a person to face sex trafficking charges.

For instance, in cases involving minors, the prosecution does not have to prove that the defendant used force or violence. Making promises to the child to get them to comply with demands for sex may be considered a sex trafficking offense. Recently, Ghislaine Maxwell, an associate of Jeffrey Epstein, was charged with sex trafficking minors. It is alleged that she groomed and paid a 14-year-old girl to engage in sexual conduct with Mr. Epstein. Both were also alleged to have offered to get the girl a passport so she could travel with them.

Sex Trafficking Does Not Require Movement from One Country to Another

Often, when people hear of someone being charged with or convicted of a trafficking offense, they think of the conduct as involving travel between countries. However, crossing borders to compel a person to engage in commercial sex acts is not the only way someone may be charged with sex trafficking.

Under 18 U.S.C. § 1591, sex trafficking occurs when it affects foreign or interstate commerce. In other words, even if a person allegedly commits the offense within the U.S., they may still be facing federal charges.

There are many cases of sex trafficking happening within this country. The following are a couple of recent examples. In March of 2021, a woman was convicted and sentenced for sex trafficking a minor in Tennessee. In that same month but in a different case, a man was sentenced to 35 years in prison for sex trafficking minors and adults in Pennsylvannia and Delaware.

Sex Trafficking Investigations Are Collaborative Efforts

For the most part, the FBI investigates alleged sex trafficking offenses. But the agency doesn't always work alone. It collaborates with other federal agencies, as well as state and local law enforcement agencies.

Various task forces and initiatives also exist to investigate crimes and locate and recover victims.

The Penalties for Sex Trafficking

Sex trafficking is a serious federal crime. Anyone convicted of an offense can face a lengthy prison term and fines. The amount of time a court may sentence a person to imprisonment depends on the nature of the offense.

If the crime involved fraud, force, or coercion or a person under 14 years of age, conviction penalties include between 15 years and life in prison.

If the offense involved a person between 14 and 17 years of age (without fraud, force, or coercion), the term of imprisonment is between 10 years and life.

Being accused of a federal sex crime can be frightening and overwhelming. Our team at Keegan, Tindal & Jaeger fights aggressively for those accused in and around Iowa City and is prepared to seek favorable outcomes in these cases.

If you need experienced legal representation, contact us at (319) 499-5524 today.