Jeffrey Epstein, a former investment banker and financier, has been arrested in New York on sex trafficking charges. He’s been accused of paying underage girls, molesting them, and ordering them to have sex with himself and various friends on his private jet and at two of his homes. These allegations date back to the early-to-mid 2000s.
This isn’t Epstein’s first run-in with the law. In 2008, he pled guilty to soliciting a 17 years old girl. His plea bargain, which is now under heavy scrutiny, allowed him to avoid life in prison in exchange for registering as a sex offender, paying his victims, and spending 13 months behind bars.
Now Epstein faces more serious sex trafficking charges. New York leads the nation in sex trafficking cases every year. California, however, isn’t far behind. A study revealed that California reports the fourth-highest number of human trafficking cases annually.
What is Sex Trafficking?
In California, sex trafficking is prosecuted under the state’s human trafficking law. Under Penal Code Section 236.1 PC, human trafficking can be defined as:
- Depriving or violating the personal liberty of another person with the intent to obtain forced labor or services;
- Depriving or violating the personal liberty of another person with the intent to violate the state’s pornography, pimping and pandering, extortion, or blackmail laws.
- Causing, inducing, persuading (or attempting to) persuade a minor to engage in a commercial sex act with the intent to break the law.
Human trafficking is a complex crime. Several different behaviors can fall under the broad definition. However, any crime labeled as “human trafficking” or “sex trafficking” must satisfy the elements of the offense under 236.1 PC.
Depriving or Violating Personal Liberty
What does it mean to deprive or violate someone’s personal liberty? California defines this as a substantial and sustained restriction of a person’s right and ability to move freely and make decisions about their life. This can be accomplished through:
- Duress, or
- Threats of violence or injury to a loved one.
Intent to Force Labor or Break the Law
When you deprive someone’s liberty, you must do so with the intent to “obtain forced labor or services” or “effect or maintain a violation” of the law. Simply depriving a person of their liberty without either of these intents is not trafficking. However, it might be considered a different crime, based on the circumstances.
Causing, Inducing, Persuading a Minor to Break Engage in a Commercial Sex Act
Trafficking can also be defined to mean causing or attempting to persuade someone under the age of 18 to engage in sexual activity for money. This can involve threats of force, duress, coercion, or even paying the minor. When you forced or attempted to persuade the minor to have sex, you must have also intended to break the state’s pornography, extortion, blackmail, or pimping laws.
What’s the Penalty for Sex Trafficking in California?
Sex trafficking is a very serious offense. It’s always a felony in California. The penalty depends on why you were charged with trafficking in the first place.
Deprived Liberty to Secure Forced Labor or Services: Punishable by five to eight years in prison and $500,000 in fines.
Deprived Liberty to Violate the Law: Punishable by eight to 20 years in prison and $500,000 in fines.
Persuaded or Forced a Minor to Engage in Sex to Break the Law: Punishable by five to 12 years in prison, or 15 years to life if there was evidence of force, fear, violence, or threats of violence.
You’ll also have to register as a sex offender if you’re convicted of human trafficking crime involving a sex crime or encouragement of a minor to have sex for commercial purposes.