Human Trafficking

By Nathan Ryan LaBar | Criminal Defense Attorney
Published: October 20, 2015

Human TraffickingAs Attorneys at LaBar Adams P.A. who represent the victims of unscrupulous employment practices and those persons who are victimized after being wrongfully accused of crimes, we have observed that reports of Human Trafficking fill the airwaves with more and more frequency. From local headlines to national news coverage, an epidemic of Human Trafficking seems to be infiltrating Florida’s communities. Of course, Human Trafficking deserves the attention it receives.  Perhaps no other wrongful act, constitutes such an egregious human rights violation as Human Trafficking. The notion of Human Trafficking harkens back to the systematic slavery, torture and degradation of millions that brought this country to civil war. This problem strikes at the heart of morality and should be countered at every turn. For most people, it is unthinkable that such exploitation could be occurring in their community. One may wonder to what extent is this occurring? What form is it occurring? And where is Human Trafficking taking place?

Human Trafficking for Sex

In 2013, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center ranked Florida 3rd in the number of calls received by the center’s human trafficking hotline. According to published studies, the average age that a trafficked victim is first used for commercial sex is 12–14. One of the nation’s highest profile sex trafficking case occurred in Florida. A crime family trafficked numerous Mexican women and girls, as young as 14, into Florida where they rotated them between brothels in South Florida and the Carolinas. The traffickers required the women to perform fifteen to twenty sexual acts daily to pay off the smuggling debts that the women allegedly owed them.

Human Trafficking for Labor

In addition to sex trafficking, Florida has experienced high profile human trafficking pertaining to forced labor. Florida represents a naturally conducive environment to labor exploitation because of its large immigrant presence that depends upon agricultural work. Three Florida sub-contractors were convicted in Southwest Florida for conspiring to hold migrant workers in involuntary servitude.

The Federal Law Response

In response to such cases and as part of the growing awareness of this problem, Congress passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (VTVPA). The federal law not only criminalizes human trafficking specifically but also provides protective measures for its victims, including immigration and social service benefits. Additionally under Federal Law, claims for human trafficking and forced labor may be brought under both the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization (TVPRA) and the Alien Tort Statute (ATS).

State of Florida Law

Florida Legislators and Courts have also responded comprehensively to this alarming trend concerning forced labor and forced sexual slavery in cases of Human Trafficking. Florida has implemented enhanced Criminal Laws in effort to curb Human Trafficking. To prove the crime of Human Trafficking, State Attorneys must prove a Defendant knowingly, or in reckless disregard of the facts, engaged in or benefited financially from human trafficking.

What is Human Trafficking Under Florida Law?

Human Trafficking is defined by Florida Statute as transporting, soliciting, recruiting, harboring, providing, enticing, maintaining, or obtaining another person for the purpose of exploitation of that person.

Human Trafficking - Penalties

Furthermore, sentences of 30 years in prison can be imposed for any person who engages in human trafficking by using:

  1. labor or services of any child under the age of 18;
  2. coercion for labor or services of an adult;
  3. coercion for commercial sexual activity of an adult;
  4. labor or services of any child under the age of 18 who is an unauthorized alien;
  5. coercion for labor or services of an adult who is an unauthorized alien;
  6. coercion for commercial sexual activity of an adult who is an unauthorized alien;
  7. labor or services after or during the transfer or transport of any child under the age of 18 from outside this state to within the state;
  8. coercion for labor or services after or during the transfer or transport of an adult from outside this state to within the state.

Additionally, for commercial sexual activity after or during the transport of a child under the age of 18 the individual can be sentenced to life in prison.

Services for the Victims of Human Trafficking

Recognizing the importance of providing a safe harbor for victims of Human Trafficking, the State and Federal Governments have implemented mechanisms designed to assist those coming out of a life of forced servitude. The Safe Harbor Act went into effect on January 1, 2013. It attempts to procure the safety of child victims who have been trafficked for sex and allows those kids that are rescued from prostitution to get help from child welfare professionals instead of being placed in juvenile delinquency programs.

The Department of Children and Families, the Department of Juvenile Justice, and law enforcement may treat and help victims. As a part of this effort, the victims can receive intensive treatment in residential settings.

Protections for Victims of Human Trafficking; Expungement and Waiver of Prosecution

Additionally, for adult victims who were committing crimes while ensnared in a Human Trafficking organization, Criminal Justice system offers enticing measures of relief against a criminal record. First, State Attorneys are often willing to avoid prosecution of victims of human trafficking even if they were committing crimes themselves. Especially, if the victims are willing to offer material assistance in the prosecution of a Human Trafficking ringleader. Secondly, even if a victim receives a criminal record of some type, the Court system offers a measure of relief in the form of relaxed Expunction or Expungement standards.  If a petitioner for an Expunction (Expungement) can show they were the victim of human trafficking, and has committed an offense, which was committed as a part of a human trafficking scheme or at the direction of an operator of the scheme, then they have an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and remove any criminal history on their record. This is a valuable measure of protection for those who would not have committed crimes but for the fact they themselves were victims.

Unfortunately, all of the above benefits and protections can lead to unintended consequences. As a result of the foregoing, there is an increased incentive for those individuals charged with crimes to falsify allegations against others in order to avoid prosecution. For example, an individual who is looking at spending time in prison for a serious drug offense may attempt to avoid jail time altogether and receive state welfare benefits at the same time by accusing a co-defendant of making him or her commit the crime.

The immoral and unlawful practices that make up Human Trafficking should not be understated. Nor should the responsive laws and the intended (and unintended) consequences be underestimated. Human Trafficking is an area of law that is vastly expanding at the State and Federal level. A knowledgeable staff of dedicated attorneys is vital to protecting an individual’s rights, whether a victim of Human Trafficking or wrongfully accused of Human Trafficking. Whether one is a victim of forced labor in the context of Employment, or wrongfully accused of Human Trafficking in a sexual context, the Attorneys at LaBar Adams, P.A. have the necessary experience needed. Call us today at 407-835-8968 for a free consultation on any Human Trafficking question.

 

Ryan LaBar - Criminal Defense Lawyer

 

 

 

 

 

N. Ryan LaBar
Criminal Defense Attorney

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