Human Trafficking Defense Attorney
New federal and state laws are passed regularly regarding prostitution and human trafficking. Law enforcement is focusing resources on investigating and prosecuting human trafficking cases.
Human Trafficking and Prostitution are More Common Than you Would Think.
Human Trafficking in Michigan is a surprisingly common thing. Statistics show that 21 million people worldwide are exploited for slave labor or sex trade trafficking. Allegedly, the United States alone has almost a million victims of human trafficking. Michigan and the United States Attorney’s Office has prioritized prosecuting and punishing individuals facing prostitution and human trafficking charges. Few Human Trafficking Defense Attorneys have the influence, experience, and reputation to provide credible and power defense against these charges.
The primary concern relative to human trafficking is how to stop it. The situation is improved if poor labor standards are abolished and the government decriminalizes offenses victims are forced to commit. The major problem is that the victims of human trafficking are being treated as the offender and not as a victim…unless they have strong and influential lawyers fighting to protect and defend them.
Human Trafficking Takes Many Forms
Because the attention given to these offenses by media and politicians has been so intense, courts look to make examples of defendants charged with human trafficking. Although human trafficking can occur in many ways, the three most common forms are sex trafficking, forced labor, and debt bondage. Forced labor, also known as involuntary servitude, is the most significant sector of trafficking globally. Debt bondage is another form of human trafficking in which an individual is forced to work to pay a debt. Sex trafficking has attracted the greatest attention from law enforcement due to the malicious nature of this offense. Sex trafficking allegations most commonly result from prostitution allegations involving non-U.S. citizens. Of course, any adult allegedly involved in arranging or engaging in a commercial sex act with an alien under 18 would face human trafficking charges. As you might imagine, a person facing these charges will need a powerful attorney skilled in Prostitution and Human Trafficking defense to protect and defend them.
State and Federal Human Trafficking Charges
The state of Michigan criminalized human trafficking in 2006. The Michigan law provides that a person shall not:
- knowingly recruit, entice, harbor, transport, provide, or obtain an individual for forced labor or services,
- knowingly recruit, entice, harbor, transport, provide, or obtain an individual for the purpose of holding the individual in debt bondage,
- knowingly benefit from or obtain an individual by any means, knowing that the individual will be subjected to forced labor or services or debt bondage, or
- obtain by any means a minor for commercial sexual activity or forced labor or services.
Under federal law, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) criminalizes all forms of human trafficking, including slavery, involuntary servitude, forced labor, labor trafficking, and sex trafficking. Federal human trafficking crimes are:
- Involuntary Servitude
- Debt Bondage
- Sex Trafficking
Federal sex trafficking includes the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for a commercial sex act in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion or in which the person is induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age. Labor trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, or obtaining of a person for labor or services through force, fraud, or coercion for involuntary servitude, debt bondage, or slavery.
Penalties for Human Trafficking and Why a Top Defense Attorney is Essential
In either Michigan or federal courts, penalties for human trafficking convictions are harsh. A defendant convicted of this crime is likely looking at a prison sentence unless there are extraordinary circumstances or exceptionally compelling mitigating factors. In federal court, penalties can range from 5 to 20 years in prison and up to life in prison, where the offense results in death.
In state law cases, these crimes are punishable by 10 years to life imprisonment. Additionally, the government can charge other crimes in conjunction with human trafficking violations. Examples include racketeering, RICO, kidnapping, criminal sexual conduct, prostitution, assault, unlawful imprisonment, child abuse, and statutory rape. Any sentence imposed for human trafficking would be consecutive to any penalty imposed for any other offense. Consecutive means one sentence follows the other; the sentences are stacked.
Any defendant who is not a United States citizen, including those with a lawful Visa or Green Card, will face deportation after completing any jail or prison sentence.
Human Trafficking in Michigan and Prostitution Crimes
Michigan law has changed relative to prostitution. A person who engages the services of another for prostitution or lewdness that is not their spouse, by payment of money or other forms of consideration, is guilty of a 93-day misdemeanor, with punishments increasing for second or subsequent offenses. If the victim is less than 18 years old, the charge is a felony with a penalty of 5 years. Before the amendments, only a man could face charges for engaging the services of a woman other than his wife.
The law requires a presumption that a person under 18 years of age for certain prostitution offenses was coerced or forced into committing the offense.
A conviction for engaging or offering to engage a minor’s services for prostitution requires registration on the Sex Offender Registry.
Human Trafficking Allegations
Victims of human trafficking violations can be men, women, and children. Federal and state defendants are charged with forcing aliens into the following types of labor, among others:
- domestic servitude
- agricultural work
- janitorial services
- hotel services
- health and eldercare
- hair and nail salons
- strip club dancing
Charges have also been filed by those who arrange or facilitate “mail-order” brides. The allegations in these cases are that foreign women believe they are going to the United States for marriage but are enslaved instead.
Why is a Human Trafficking Defense Attorney Critically Important?
Prosecutors zealously pursue human trafficking charges. Law enforcement’s eagerness to press charges could unintentionally lead to wrongful charges, unjust convictions, and unfair stigmatization. In addition, minor players, mules, and individuals acting under duress or pressure from high-level offenders can face unwarranted or unfair punishment. Courts enforce laws, not emotions. Because prosecutions in these cases can be like “runaway trains,” it is critical that a defense lawyer be reputable, respected, and formidable in court. The best hope of avoiding a wrongful conviction or a lengthy prison sentence is with an experienced, successful defense lawyer.
Occasionally, police and law enforcement officers accuse innocent people. False allegations can arise from an au-pair who complains of unfair work obligations, a cleaning lady who feels aggrieved by one thing or another, or any other innocent situations. Innocent people can be wrongfully charged and unjustly convicted. You should immediately engage a top criminal defense lawyer for any misconduct allegation. When a highly reputable defense attorney gets involved, the police will get the message that the accused is serious about their innocence.
Amendments to Michigan’s Human Trafficking Laws
Michigan law prohibits a person from knowingly recruiting, enticing, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining an individual for forced labor or services, to hold a person in debt bondage.
Also, Michigan law prohibits a person from benefiting financially or receiving anything of value from an enterprise engaged in human trafficking. A specific statute prohibits prostitution and human trafficking charges when the victim is a minor.
The penalties can vary from a 10-year felony (if there was no injury) up to life in prison (if the violation involved kidnapping, rape, death, or the attempt to commit any of those offenses)
There is no need for the victim to testify in prosecutions under the new human trafficking laws. The statute of limitations is 25 years – meaning that a person who commits a human trafficking offense can be prosecuted for that offense for 25 years afterward. If the offense is punishable by life in prison, there is no time limit on when the government can file charges.
Human Trafficking Defense Attorneys in Michigan
Michigan is taking human trafficking very seriously. When a person is under investigation for any possible criminal offense, it is essential that you have legal representation to protect your rights and not allow the police to take advantage of you. The Defense Team with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. has extensive experience and an unparalleled track record of success defending clients charged with felony offenses in state and federal courts. We will stand up to judges and prosecutors and do whatever it takes to defend and protect our clients’ rights and futures. We treat all clients with compassion and dignity and take the time to learn each client’s story so that we can develop a winning strategy in every case.
Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete an online Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.