Virginia recognizes human trafficking as a form of modern slavery that is a significant problem in the Commonwealth. In 2020, Virginia ranked 11th in the country for reported human trafficking cases, and Governor Northam recognized January 2020 as Human Trafficking Awareness Month to bring attention to these heinous crimes.
Human trafficking cases may be prosecuted pursuant to state, federal, or international law and carry significant penalties.
However, a human trafficking charge is not the same as a human trafficking conviction. You are still innocent until proven guilty and the government must prove every element of its case beyond a reasonable doubt before you are convicted of a human trafficking crime.
People accused of human trafficking crimes often benefit from contacting an experienced Virginia criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to protect their rights.
Human Trafficking Crimes and Penalties
Generally, human trafficking occurs when someone benefits from the exploitation or control of someone else. Two common types of human trafficking include sex trafficking and labor trafficking. For example, Virginia law specifically prohibits:
- Human trafficking (Virginia Code §18.2-355). This law makes it a crime to: (1) take, persuade, encourage, or cause any person to enter a bawdy place, or take any person against their will, for purposes of prostitution or unlawful sexual intercourse; (2) take or detain a person against their will by force, threat, persuasion, menace, or duress with intent to compel that person to marry or be defiled by another person; (3) be a parent, guardian, or legal custodian who consents to a person being taken or detained for prostitution or unlawful sexual intercourse; or (4) takes, persuades, encourages, or causes any minor to enter a bawdy place or be taken for purposes of prostitution. Subsections one, two, and three are punishable as Class 4 felonies and the potential sentence includes two to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. Subsection four is a Class 3 felony punishable by five to twenty years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
- Receiving money for procuring a person (Virginia Code §18.2-356). Anyone who receives money for (i) procuring or placing someone in a house of prostitution or elsewhere for engaging in prostitution; or (ii) causes any person to engage in forced labor or services, concubinage, prostitution, or manufacture of obscene material or child pornography violates this law. This law is a class 4 felony punishable by two to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. However, if the person is under the age of 18, then this law is a class 3 felony punishable by five to twenty years in prison and a fine not exceeding $100,000.
- Receiving money from earnings of a prostitute (Virginia Code §18.2-357). Any person who knowingly receives money from the earnings for someone engaged in prostitution may be guilty of pandering. This is a Class 4 felony punishable by two to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. If the person engaging in prostitution is under the age of eighteen, then it is a Class 3 felony punishable by five to twenty years imprisonment and a fine of not more than $100,000.
- Engaging in prostitution (Virginia Code §18.2-346). Any person who engages in prostitution is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable with up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. Prostitution becomes a felony when it involves a child 16 years of age or younger.
- Abducting or kidnapping someone (Virginia Code §18.2-47(B)). Anyone who uses force, intimidation, or deception without legal justification to seize, take, transport, detain, or secrete another person with the intention to subject that person to forced labor is guilty of abduction. This crime is a Class 5 felony punishable by one to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500.
- Abducting with intent to extort money or for an immoral purpose (Virginia Code §18.2-48). An abduction (i) of any person with the intent to extort money or pecuniary benefit, (ii) of any person with the intent to defile such person, (iii) of any child under 16 years of age for concubinage or prostitution, (iv) of any person for prostitution, or (v) of any minor for manufacturing of child pornography is a class 2 felony. Class 2 felonies carry a potential sentence of 20 years to life in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
- Extorting money, property, or pecuniary benefit (Virginia Code §18.2-59). It is a Class 5 felony to threaten injury, accuse someone of an offense, threaten to report someone as being illegally present in the United States, or knowingly destroy, conceal, remove, confiscate, withhold, threaten to withhold or possess an actual or purported passport, immigration document, or government identification document to money, property or pecuniary benefit. This crime's potential consequences include one to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500.
Other Virginia statutes also prohibit activities that may be considered human trafficking.
Sometimes, people charged with human trafficking crimes are also charged with other Virginia crimes, such as:
Additionally, human trafficking may violate United States and international laws.
Contact a Fairfax Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
A human trafficking conviction could change your future. Our Fairfax criminal defense attorneys will thoroughly investigate the charges against you, identify all potential defenses, and aggressively fight to protect your rights.
You don't have to wait until formal charges are brought against you. Instead, contact our criminal defense law firm as soon as possible to make sure that your rights are protected.