Virginia Human Trafficking Lawyer
Defendants who are facing allegations of human trafficking are often scared and confused. They may not understand why their actions are being viewed as illegal. They may also be concerned about the potential penalties for a conviction and want to avoid this fate at all costs.
Human trafficking could involve any activity that forces another person into involuntary servitude. This could involve economic or sexual slavery, or even destroying the passports of immigrants. Any violation of these statutes is a serious offense that might result in a multiple year prison sentence.
A Virginia human trafficking lawyer may be able to help. A well-practiced criminal attorney could work with plaintiffs to help them understand the portion of federal law that they are alleged to have violated. They could then work to identify realistic goals and to formulate a defense to protect their rights in court.
Federal Human Trafficking Laws
The concept of slavery may seem antiquated, but the fact remains that slavery remains a very real problem in the United States and around the world. Relabeled as human trafficking, the Global Slavery Index estimates that there were more than 57,000 people living under conditions of slavery in the United States in 2016. This massive problem persists despite many Federal laws prohibiting this practice.
In general, it is illegal for any person to hold another under a condition of slavery. This means that the alleged victim is unable to leave the control of the defendant and that this control is for an economic or sexual purpose. 18 U.S.C. §1584 states that a defendant is only guilty if the alleged victim feels trapped by threats or coercion. A conviction under this statute might result in any term of imprisonment up to a life sentence in addition to the payment of a fine.
Other actions that do not fit under the traditional definition of slavery may also illegal under human trafficking laws. 18 U.S.C. §1589 says that is it illegal for any individual to obtain the labor or services of another through the threat of harm or through the threat of legal action. A maximum sentence for a conviction under this law is 20 years imprisonment and the payment of a fine.
It is also illegal to seize the documentation of any person with the intent to force that person to work. This commonly occurs when a boss seizes or destroys the passports of migrant workers as a condition of employment. According to 18 U.S.C. §1592, this behavior may be punished by a fine and a prison sentence of up to five years.
Allegations of human trafficking often rely on the prosecutor’s ability to prove the criminal intent, or mens rea, of the defendant. These federal laws are predicated on the idea that the perpetrator kept another person under bondage with the intent to take advantage of them. The prosecutor needs to prove that not only was an alleged victim kept under control by the defendant but also that the defendant did so with the intent to gain an advantage.
Because of this, many successful defenses in these cases revolve around the concept that the defendant did not intend to keep the alleged victim under their control. Defense attorneys may be able to provide evidence of conversations or text messages where the defendant makes it clear that the relationship between the two parties was consensual.
There are many ways that a Virginia human trafficking lawyer could protect their clients in court. A defense attorney could fight for you by challenging the ways that evidence was collected, cross-examining witnesses at trial, and arguing that their client lacked the necessary mens rea for a conviction.
Talking to a Virginia Human Trafficking Attorney
Allegations of human trafficking are serious felonies. A conviction under any of the federal laws that prohibit this behavior is likely to result in a lengthy prison sentence. These laws prohibit many activities ranging from keeping a person under bondage through the use of force to taking a worker’s passport to prevent them from leaving.
No matter the exact circumstances that led to an arrest, a Virginia human trafficking lawyer may be able to help. An attorney with years of experience in helping people could fight for you. Contact an attorney today to discuss your case.