Human Trafficking Laws & Charges

Human trafficking is defined when one of more people are controlled and exploited for financial gain. Many victims of human trafficking include adults who are 18 or more who are tricked into working in the commercial sex trade, children who are sold into the trade, and any individual who is forced to work in forced labor.

There are a growing number of illegal sex shops and massage parlors where human traffickers are flourishing; in recent weeks, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was arrested for allegedly soliciting prostitution in Florida during the Super Bowl and AFC Championship. (

Across the United States, state legislators are trying to deal with the humber violations of human trafficking. That is why there are robust federal laws in place for human trafficking, and many states also have their own laws.

Human Trafficking Laws

At the federal level, there are many laws and regulations that government human trafficking. These include:

  • The U.S. Code, Title 22, Chapter 78 – Trafficking Victims Protection
  • The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act (TVPA)
  • The Customs and Facilitations and Trade Enforcement Reauthorization Act of 2009
  • The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004
  • The PROTECT Act of 2003
  • The Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000 (CAFRA)
  • The Mann Act of 1910

In Massachusetts, human trafficking laws are laid out in General Laws, Part IV, Title I, Chapter 265, Section 50 of the Massachusetts General Statutes.

Human Trafficking Penalties

At the federal level, the penalties for human trafficking are serious. You can face a prison term for a human trafficking conviction of up to 20 years. If a death results from the violation, you can receive life in prison. Sex trafficking of children by fraud or force has higher penalties at the federal level, with a minimum sentence of 10 years.

At the federal level, there are aggravating circumstances that will cause there to be stiffer punishments. For example, if you committed human trafficking crimes before, you will get a longer sentence the second time. Further, if the person suffered harm during sex trafficking or there was more than a single victim, tougher penalties may result.

Massachusetts Human Trafficking Penalties

In Massachusetts, there are several punishments laid out for human trafficking:

  • Anyone who forces another person to work in commercial sexual activity or unlawful pornography can be punished in state prison for a minimum of five years, and up to 20 years, plus a fine of $25,000.
  • If a person under 18 is forced to work in sex trafficking, the criminal could be punished by a prison term of at least five years.
  • A business that engages in human trafficking can be fined $1 million. (gov).

In recent years, there have been aggressive efforts to fight human trafficking in Massachusetts. From 2012 to 2016 in the state, there were 336 cases of human trafficking reported, and 598 people possibly trafficked. (

Human Trafficking Defenses

While  human trafficking is a serious and growing crime, lawmakers across the country have been reviewing legislation that may create laws that could mistakenly lead to improper convictions and stigmatization of innocent people. According to USA Today, ‘marginal players’ in the human trafficking problem are the people who run real, legal businesses but they are unknowingly working with human traffickers. (

Some of the different people who can be subjected to one of these charges but may not have engaged in the crime are:

  • Travel arrangers
  • Recruiters
  • Funding sponsors
  • Marketers of services that are provided by victims
  • Aiding and abetting of participants

Human Trafficking Examples

Below are some human trafficking examples that exist both in the US and across the globe.

  • Forced Nigerian prostitution in Europe: These prostitutes are common throughout Europe and especially in the countries of the Mediterranean. Nigerian women and girls are often viewed looking for clients in expensive tourist areas, but for most of them, this is not a choice; they have been forced through extortion to become sex slaves to escape their native land.
  • Slave markets in Libya: Many migrants who enter Europe through Libya are often used by criminal organizations, including human traffickers. Human traffickers often target the migrants who originate from Sub-Saharan Africa and are going north. Some migrants going through Nigeria and Libya are kidnapped by armed gangs and sold into sex slavery.
  • Bacha bazi: In Afghanistan, one especially sinister form of human trafficking targets boys who are underage. They are forced to dress as young girls and must entertain older, homosexual men. Men often use them at sex parties and the boys are forced to dance. (fi).

In Massachusetts it was reported by the National Human Trafficking Hotline there were 345 calls related to human trafficking during 2017, and this was a 25% rise from 2016. A lot of the calls were related to sex trafficking at illegal spas and massages. (

What To Do If You’re Charged

If you face a state or federal human trafficking charge with US government or the state of Massachusetts, you should retain an excellent criminal defense attorney.  Human trafficking and sex trafficking is prosecuted in the most aggressive fashion at the state and federal levels. Attorney Geoffrey Nathan has an exemplary record of success dealing with human trafficking charges. For a criminal defense legal consultation about your human trafficking charge, please text him at (617) 905-1433.


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For a Federal or Criminal Consultation, text me today at 1-617-905-1433 or use the form below for your consultation. I will offer you expert help and answer any specific questions you have about your case. I handle criminal defense cases throughout all areas of Massachusetts including Boston, Cambridge, Newton, Springfield, Quincy, Lowell, Worcester, Fall River and national for Federal matters.

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