Learn about punishments and potential defenses for sex trafficking in Texas
Sex trafficking is one of the most serious offenses in Houston, Texas, carrying severe penalties for a conviction. False accusations of this crime are terrifying and can change a person’s life even if they’re not convicted. This article will discuss some important facts about sex trafficking in Texas and explain how you can protect yourself if you face such charges.
Statistics on sex trafficking in Texas
Texas is no stranger to sex trafficking cases, and the number of arrests has rapidly increased since 2007.
According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, in 2021, there were more than 3,500 calls placed to the Human Trafficking Hotline. Out of that number, more than 1,100 of those calls came directly from human trafficking victims or survivors. That same year, 917 cases were identified, with over 1,700 victims directly involved in them.
In Texas, the vast majority of human trafficking cases involve victims taken for the purpose of sex. The second-largest reason for trafficking is to force people into labor, usually in the area of domestic work. Most victims are adults, but minors are trafficked as well, and most are overwhelmingly female.
What is sex trafficking?
Sex trafficking is a crime that happens when someone forces another person into the sex industry. Usually, victims of this type of trafficking are women and children. In human trafficking, categories of sex industry work include the following:
- Street prostitution
- Internet prostitution
- Strip clubs
- Massage parlors
How does sex trafficking typically happen?
Sex trafficking and other types of trafficking usually occur when victims are coerced by people close to them whom they trust. Although it’s possible for victims to be forced into it by strangers, usually, intimate partners, business owners, community leaders and even family members are the ones behind the crime.
Often, victims are coerced into trafficking through false promises of a better life. This usually happens to adults from other countries, but even American-born citizens can be manipulated and tricked into sex trafficking with such promises.
Trafficking is a serious crime no matter who the victim is, but it’s deemed even worse when it involves minor children. Children are unable to give consent to sexual acts and are often sold at very young ages.
Is sex trafficking a state or federal crime?
Human trafficking, including sex trafficking, can be both a state and federal crime at the same time.
When a person is trafficked, it involves kidnapping, which is a federal offense. Additional federal crimes include the following:
- Transporting someone from one state to another against their will
- Confiscating or destroying a person’s travel documents, which often happens with foreign victims
- Forcing victims to pay debts through sex work
Apart from these federal-level crimes, you can also be charged by the state of Texas for the following in sex trafficking cases:
- Participating in or deriving benefits from any sexual activity involving a minor
- Subjecting a victim of trafficking to acts of prostitution, illegal pornography or ongoing sexual abuse
Because sex trafficking is both a state and federal crime, it means the penalties for a conviction are much harsher. If a child is a victim, those penalties can be even more severe.
What are some reasons a person might be wrongly accused of sex trafficking?
A person can be wrongly accused of sex trafficking in a few ways. In most cases, it occurs when an adult is traveling with a child who has a different last name than them. This can happen when a person’s own child has a different last name or looks different than them.
For example, if the child has bi-racial parents or is adopted and doesn’t look like the parent they’re traveling with, authorities can become suspicious and suspect the parent is guilty of human trafficking. Foster parents traveling with their foster kids and adults with children who are not related to them can also be falsely accused of sex trafficking.
Woman sentenced for false sex trafficking allegations
Several men were falsely accused of sex trafficking after a young woman deliberately lied and created a fabricated story about being abused and forced into sex work. She started posting the lies on Facebook during the spring of 2020 while lockdowns occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. This led to a global campaign being created to help her, but after the truth came out, it led to outrage among the online community.
The men who were falsely accused found their lives turned upside down. Some even attempted suicide because of the ramifications that came with the accusations. They said they faced constant harassment from the police and the public.
After the truth came out following an investigation into the woman’s story, she was found guilty of making false accusations of rape and sex trafficking. The judge in her case criticized her for showing no remorse for her crime and sentenced her to more than 8 years in jail.
What are the penalties for sex trafficking in Texas?
The penalties for sex crimes, including sex trafficking, are severe in Texas. This is why individuals falsely accused of the crime and facing charges need to retain an experienced criminal defense attorney. Even if a conviction doesn’t happen, these accusations can change a person’s life and carry a negative stigma long into the future.
A sex trafficking charge involving an adult is a second-degree felony in Texas, which comes with penalties of up to 20 years in prison and as much as a $10,000 fine.
If the crime involves minor children, the penalties are even harsher. This crime is considered a first-degree felony in Texas which comes with penalties of 5 to 99 years imprisonment and up to a $10,000 fine.
For federal sex trafficking cases involving children, the minimum punishment is 10 years of prison time and up to a life sentence.
People who are convicted of sex trafficking in Texas are also placed on the state’s Sex Offender Registry for the remainder of their lives.
What are some potential defenses against sex trafficking charges?
When defending against sex trafficking charges, attorneys may employ various strategies to protect their clients. Here are some common defenses that may be used:
- Lack of knowledge. The defense may argue that the accused was unaware of any involvement in sex trafficking activities. Proving that the defendant had no knowledge of the illicit activities can weaken the prosecution’s case.
- Lack of intent. The defense may assert that the defendant did not have the intention or purpose to engage in sex trafficking. Establishing that the defendant’s actions were not deliberate or that there was no intent to commit the alleged offenses can be a viable defense strategy.
- Lack of evidence. Challenging the sufficiency or credibility of the evidence presented by the prosecution is a common defense tactic. This may involve questioning the reliability of witnesses, disputing the accuracy of documentation, or pointing out inconsistencies in the evidence.
- Mistaken identity. If there’s any doubt about the identity of the accused, the defense may argue that the person charged is not the individual involved in the alleged sex trafficking activities. This defense can be particularly effective if there’s weak or unreliable identification evidence.
- Coercion or duress. The defense may assert that the defendant engaged in the alleged activities under duress or coercion. Providing evidence that the defendant was forced or threatened into participating in sex trafficking can help establish a defense.
- Lack of evidence of trafficking. The defense may challenge the prosecution’s ability to prove that the elements of sex trafficking are present in the case. This could involve demonstrating that there was no recruitment, transportation, or coercion involved or that the alleged activities did not meet the legal definition of sex trafficking.
- Constitutional violations. The defense may argue that the defendant’s constitutional rights were violated during the investigation, arrest or collection of evidence. This could include issues related to illegal search and seizure, Miranda rights violations or improper handling of evidence.
It’s important to note that each case is unique, and the defense strategy should be tailored to the specific circumstances and evidence involved. Consulting with an experienced attorney who specializes in sex trafficking cases is crucial for developing an effective defense strategy.
What should you do if you’re accused of sex trafficking?
If you’re accused of sex trafficking in Texas, there are certain steps to take:
- First and foremost, remain calm. This might sound easier said than done, but outwardly panicking will only hurt your case. If law enforcement officers want to ask you questions, calmly and respectfully tell them that you don’t want to answer without a lawyer.
- Next, you should ask for an attorney immediately. You have the right to legal counsel and don’t have to talk without an attorney present.
- Over the coming weeks and months, you should help your attorney gather as much evidence as possible to help your case. This includes anything you see posted on social media that may be related to your case or the people involved in it. Also consider keeping a journal and writing down as many details as you can remember. Locate witnesses who can attest to your character.
Depending on the specifics of your case, an experienced sex crime attorney should be able to devise a strong criminal defense for you. If someone else has defamed you, it can be used in your case, and you can even file a lawsuit against the offender.
Contact an experienced Houston sex crime defense attorney
Not everyone accused of sex trafficking is guilty of the crime. If you’re facing sex trafficking charges in Texas, you need the best criminal defense attorney you can find to ensure your rights are protected. Matthew D. Sharp is a seasoned criminal defense attorney with many years of experience in sex trafficking cases who is committed to ensuring that those accused of criminal offenses get treated fairly and receive the best possible outcomes in court.
Contact The Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp today for your free consultation.