Human or Sex Trafficking

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Human trafficking is the illegal recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of a person, especially one from another country, with the intent to hold the person captive or exploit the person for labor, services, or body parts.[1] Individuals are often trafficked in order to provide involuntary labor for sex work, forced marriages, sweatshop work, and slavery.[2]

Federal Law of the United States

The U.S. has a federal law that prohibits human trafficking. § 1589 of the criminal code prohibits forced labor, while § 1584 prohibits sale into involuntary servitude.[3] Furthermore, § 1590 states that "whoever knowingly recruits, harbors, transports, provides, or obtains by any means, any person for labor or services" in violation of the prohibition against trafficking can be fined and/or imprisoned for up to 20 years.[4] If the trafficking results in the death of the victim, then the perpetrator may be fined and/or imprisoned for life.[5]

Variation by Jurisdiction


Though Maryland does not have a law that addresses the question of human trafficking more generally, it does have a law that prohibits pandering (i.e. provision or facilitation of sex acts). Under the law, a person may not take or cause another to be taken to any place for prostitution.[6] In Maryland, a violation of this clause qualifies as a misdemeanor form of human trafficking, punishable by imprisonment for up to 10 years and/or a fine for up to $5,000 USD.[7] The state does, however, have more severe punishments for pandering involving minors and in which a person knowingly takes or detains another with the intent to use force, threat, coercion, or fraud to compel the other to marry the person or a third person or perform a sexual act, sexual contact, or vaginal intercourse. This type of human trafficking is categorized as a felony, with a punishment of up to 25 years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $15,000 USD.[8]


In Texas, a person commits human trafficking when he knowingly traffics another person with the intent or knowledge that the trafficked person will engage in forced labor or services; or benefits from participating in the trafficking, which includes receiving labor or services that the person knows is forced.[9] Generally, the offense of trafficking constitutes a second degree felony unless the perpetrator traffics a minor (i.e. under 18) or the trafficking results in the death of the victim. In these cases, the crime is a first degree felony.[10]

Common Defenses

A defense to some trafficking statutes may be that the defendant was unaware or did now know that he or she was somehow involved in trafficking persons.

Foreign Jurisdictions


In 2002, the Swedish Parliament passed a law that criminalizes human trafficking for sexual purposes entitled "Prohibiting Trafficking in Human Beings for Sexual Purposes Act."[11] The government later broadened this law to cover other forms of trafficking in 2005. Under the section 1a of the chapter addressing Crimes against Liberty and Peace, it is illegal for an individual to use unlawful coercion, deception, exploitation, or other improper means to recruit, transport, accommodate, receive, or implement any means of exploitation for sexual purposes. This law also applies to exploitation in relation to compulsory work, war service, removal of organs, or in any other situation that involves strong distress for a vulnerable person. An individual convicted under this section is guilty of human trafficking, a crime that is punishable by a term of imprisonment ranging from two to ten years.[12] Conspiracy to traffic or preparation for trafficking is also crime under the Swedish Penal Code, chapter 4, section 10.[13]


Article 119 of the Vietnamese Penal Code addresses the crime of trafficking in women. In general, an individual who traffics women is punishable by imprisonment for two to seven years. The Code also provides a more severe punishment of five to twenty years for individuals who trade in women for the prostitution purposes for the purposes of sending them overseas. The more severe punishments also apply to individuals who traffic in more than one person or who have repeatedly trafficked women.[14]

See Crimes



  1. Black's Law Dictionary, 9th Edition (2009)
  2. Black's Law Dictionary, 9th Edition (2009)
  3. U.S. Criminal Code, Title 18, Part I, Chapter 77, § 1584, 1589 (2000)
  4. U.S. Criminal Code, Title 18, Part I, Chapter 77, § 1590 (2000)
  5. U.S. Criminal Code, Title 18, Part I, Chapter 77, § 1590 (2000)
  6. Maryland Criminal Code, § 11-303 (2002)
  7. Maryland Criminal Code, § 11-303 (2002)
  8. Maryland Criminal Code, § 11-303 (2002)
  9. Texas Penal Code, Title 5, Chapter 20A, § 20A.02 (2010)
  10. Texas Penal Code, Title 5, Chapter 20A, § 20A.02 (2010)