Maryland’s laws against human sex trafficking have evolved over the past 6 years. This article talks about how the law has changed and what more there is to do.
Maryland’s state law against human trafficking includes what is commonly known as pimping, but also specifically includes forcing another to engage in a sexually explicit performance by threatening harm or physical restraint to the person or a third party. It also explicitly criminalizes destroying or confiscating identification, passports, or immigration documents in the course of trafficking another. See Criminal Law §11-303
for the full text of the Maryland human trafficking law.
In 2007, the General Assembly passed the first major revision of state law designed to address human trafficked. Laws were amended to tighten provisions on sexual solicitation of a minor, extortion, and pandering. These changes were the start of efforts to give prosecutors more modern tools to convict those who engage in human trafficking. The crime of “pandering” was re-named “human trafficking”; the penalty for human trafficking of a child was increased to a felony with up to a 25 year/$15,000 fine penalty; and the law recognized that immigration status can be used as a tool of extortion. Two years later, the requirement to prove that a perpetrator used “threat or promise” was changed to a requirement of proof that the victim was “persuaded, induced or enticed” into trafficking, making prosecution a more realistic option.
As it stands today, human traffickers face felony
prosecution when victims are under the age of 18 or the state can prove use of force, fraud, threat, or coercion. Other cases are misdemeanors
(that is, those involving women or men 18 years or older where force, fraud, threat, or coercion cannot be proven). Beginning in October 2013, a trafficker will no longer be able to defend against felony prosecution by claiming he or she did not know the victim was under 18.
Attacking Financial Profits
Maryland’s state law also addresses many of the people who profit financially from human sex trafficking. Criminal Law §11-303(e) subjects a person who knowingly benefits financially or who aids, abets, or conspires with traffickers to the same penalties as the perpetrator of human trafficking.
And beginning this October -- after years of advocacy -- a bill passed creating an asset forfeiture process for defendants convicted of human trafficking. Real property, vehicles, and cash are subject to forfeiture. Personal property will not be subject to forfeiture (i.e., televisions, computers, bank accounts, securities). Real property and vehicles will only be subject to forfeiture for violations of the Human Trafficking statute (Criminal Law §11-303). Money may be forfeited after a conviction for a broader range of criminal laws: Human Trafficking §11-303, Sexual Solicitation of a Minor §3-324, Child Pornography §11-207, Receiving Earnings of a Prostitute §11-304, or Abduction of a Child Under age 16 §11-305. Proceeds of forfeiture will revert to the state general fund or political subdivision that seized the property.
Still More to Do In Maryland
While we have made substantial progress, there is still more to be done. Last session, a bill was introduced to re-categorize pimping/trafficking of a person under 21 (as opposed to under 18). If passed, these cases would have automatically been categorized as felonies, without a show of force, fraud, threat or coercion. Law enforcement reports a large number of human trafficking cases involving victim/survivors who are 18, 19, and 20 years old, many of whom began being trafficked as minors. Senator Jennie Forehand, who sponsored this bill along with Delegate Kris Valederrama writes about this important topic in this issue of Frontline. Click here
to read her article.
Federal Human Trafficking Laws
Human sex trafficking can be addressed at the federal level through criminal prosecution or civil rights actions. The federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 was the first comprehensive federal law to address human trafficking. The law includes provisions addressing prevention, protection, and prosecution.
Under U.S. federal law, human sex trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age, (22 USC § 7102; 8 CFR § 214.11(a)). The US Department of Justice also uses a range of civil rights and criminal statutes to prosecute cases, see http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/crm/statutes.php#trafficking
for a list of laws.
Federal protections for victims of human sex trafficking include access to T-Visas and certain federal benefits for foreign-born victims of human trafficking. A Resource Guide for Social Services Providers regarding services available can be found here.
Survivors can contact MCASA’s Sexual Assault Legal Institute (SALI) for help with T-visas, crime victim rights enforcement or other legal issues related to sex trafficking, TOLL FREE at 877-496-SALI.
This article appeared in the Summer 2013 issue of Frontline