Human Trafficking (Penal Code 236.1 PC)

What is Human Trafficking (Penal Code 236.1 PC)

California makes it a crime to dispossess another person of their individual rights for the purpose of forcing them to work for you.  It is also against the law to convince or attempt to convince someone under the age of 18 to participate in a sexual act for the purpose of making money.  Typically, human trafficking is seen in conjunction with prostitution, pornography, extortion or blackmail.  However, there are wide variety of arenas in which human trafficking is seen.  The laws against human trafficking are codified in the California law books as Penal Code 236.1 PC.

In order to best understanding California Penal Code 236.1 PC Human Trafficking, please read the discussion below on the legal description of the law.  It will give you a sense of the important legal issues that are likely to come up throughout your California Penal Code 236.1 PC Human Trafficking criminal prosecution.  This is important because the evidence, or lack of evidence, surrounding these important issues will determine your negotiating bargaining power before trial.  If there is a lot of evidence on these issues, then it is less likely a prosecutor will offer you a favorable plea bargain.  Moreover, the evidence available will give you a sense of the likelihood you could win at trial.  However, if your California Sex Crimes Attorney can identify holes in the evidence on the important issues, they can negotiate a favorable plea bargain or get charges entirely dismissed.  Lastly, you should understand the important issues surrounding California Penal Code 236.1 PC Human Trafficking so you can better help your California Sex Crimes Attorney investigate the case and identify holes in the prosecution’s case.

What is the legal description of California Penal Code 236.1 PC Human Trafficking?

Before you can be convicted of a California sex crime through a trial proceeding, the prosecutor must prove all of the elements of the particular crime you are charged with.  An element is simply a fact related to a crime.  The prosecutor must prove all of the elements up to a particular level of certainty.  For a California sex crime, the prosecutor must prove all of the elements “beyond a reasonable doubt.”  Remember, the requirement that the prosecutor prove all of the elements of the crime only applies where the ultimate decision, regarding guilt or innocence, is made by a judge or a jury in a trial proceeding.  In reality, you could also earn a conviction under California Penal Code 236.1 PC Human Trafficking if you choose to accept a plea offer or if you formally confess to the charge in open court.

The legal nuances and elements needed to convict you under California Penal Code 236.1 PC Human Trafficking varies depending on which section of the law you are facing charges.  Let’s look at each section one by one, with careful attention on the most likely to come up important issues.

Section (a) of Penal Code 236.1: Involuntary Work or Service

The elements for section (a) are as follows:

  • You dispossessed the alleged victim of their human liberty OR You infringed on the alleged victim’s human liberty.
  • You committed the act in Element # 1 with the purpose of procuring forcible work/services.

Dispossessing the Alleged Victim of Their Individual Liberty

Someone is dispossessed of their individual liberty or infringed upon when you significantly and continuously restrict their liberty through one of the listed means:

  • Overpowering them
  • Frightening Them
  • Defrauding Them
  • Deceiving Them
  • Pressuring Them
  • Viciousness
  • Threatening Them
  • Threatening Another Person – the surrounding facts must reflect that it was reasonable you would have carried out your threat.

Threat

The law under California Penal Code 236.1 PC Human Trafficking defines what constitutes a threat very broadly. 

This means a threat can be achieved through many means and still satisfy this aspect of California Penal Code 236.1 PC Human Trafficking .The threat could be one that promises physical injury, revenge, blackmail, or suffering.  In fact, if you threatened to seize or actually seized the alleged victim’s immigration paperwork, this could subject you to California Penal Code 236.1 PC Human Trafficking criminal liability.  Note, a threat does not have to be spoken.  A threat could be accomplished through written means or even unspoken, physical cues.

As for threats promising to hurt another person, the court will look to see whether it was reasonable for the alleged victim to believe the alleged threat.  If the threat seems credible, after evaluating the totality of surrounding circumstances, then it subjects you to California Penal Code 236.1 PC Human Trafficking liability.  However, if the threat is fanciful or meant in humor, then the threat will not likely subject you to liability.

Procuring Forcibly Induced Services/Work

It is important to note that you could be subject to California Penal Code 236.1 PC Human Trafficking liability even if you compensated the alleged victim.  This means that you could still be criminally liable under this law even if you paid the alleged victim.   The key issues will focus on whether or not the alleged victim was forced to work or serve you.  This is important because some people confuse human trafficking with slavery.  But slavery is a situation where the victim does not get paid.  A trafficked person may still get compensated.  Thus, the fact that the alleged victim is getting paid is not a defense to California Penal Code 236.1 PC Human Trafficking.

Section (b) of Penal Code 236.1: Human Trafficking Done With the Intention to Either Pimp, Include a Child in Pornography, or Extort

The elements for section (b) are as follows:

  • You dispossessed the alleged victim of their human liberty OR You infringed the alleged victim of their human liberty.
  • When committing the act in Element #1, you did so with the purpose of committing any one of the crimes listed in the actual language of the law. (Examples: Pimping, Pandering, Extortion, etc.)

Section (c) of Penal Code 236.1: Compelling Someone Under the Age of 18 to Participate in a Sexual Act for Compensation

The elements for section (c) are as follows:

  • You compelled a person under the age of 18 to participate in a commerce related sexual conduct.
  • You committed the action in Element #1 with the purpose of committing a crime listed in the language of California Penal Code 236.1 PC Human Trafficking.

It is important to note that section (c) of California Penal Code 236.1 PC Human Trafficking differs from the other sections of the law in one particularly significant way.  To be guilty under this section, there is no requirement that you dispossess another person of their individual liberty.  Thus, if the alleged victim, who is under the age of 18, freely chooses to work for you for a commerce related sexual act, you can still be convicted of California Penal Code 236.1 PC Human Trafficking.  Also, it is not a defense if you did not know the age of the victim.  It doesn’t matter if your inaccurate belief of the age was subjectively honest or reasonable.

  • What are the potential punishments for a conviction under California Penal Code 236.1 PC Human Trafficking?

The potential punishments for a conviction under California Penal Code 236.1 PC Human Trafficking differ depending on which section of the law you are charged with.  However, regardless of the section, a conviction under California Penal Code 236.1 PC Human Trafficking is classified as a felony.  (Note: felonies are typically pursued by your local county’s District Attorney’s office)

The potential punishments under section (a) of California Penal Code 236.1 PC Human Trafficking may include any of the following: a maximum sanction of half a million dollars, a maximum of 12 years in state prison, and/or felony probation.

The potential punishments under subsection (b) of California Penal Code 236.1 PC Human Trafficking may include any of the following: a maximum of half a million dollars in sanctions, a maximum of 20 years in state prison, and/or felony probation.  Additionally, you will be mandated to register under California’s sex offender registry laws.  You will be required to register as a 3rd Level Offender for the duration of your entire lifetime

The potential punishments under section(c) of California Penal Code 236.1 PC Human Trafficking may include any of the following: a maximum sanction of half of million dollars, a maximum state prison sentence of 15 years, and felony probation.  Additionally, you will be mandated to register under California sex offender registry laws for the duration of your entire lifetime. 

Sentencing Enhancements

If you caused the alleged victim to suffer significant physical injury while committing the California Penal Code 236.1 PC Human Trafficking crime, then you could face even more prison time.  You could receive a maximum of an extra 10 years of state prison on top of the sentence you received for the baseline conviction.

Furthermore, if you were convicted of California Penal Code 236.1 PC Human Trafficking in the past, then you could be sentenced to another extra 5 years in state prison (5 years for each past California Penal Code 236.1 PC Human Trafficking violation) on top of the sentence you received for the baseline conviction.  Hence, if you have two past convictions for California Penal Code 236.1 PC Human Trafficking, then theoretically this could add an extra 10 years to your sentence.

If you committed the California Penal Code 236.1 PC Human Trafficking violation through the use of a gang, or for a gang, you could face an extra four years of state prison time on top of your baseline conviction.

Extra Sanctions

Due to a recently passed law, judges now have the option of stacking on another sanction on top of those you might receive for the baseline conviction.  They can add a maximum of an extra $1,000,000 on top of those received for your baseline sentence.  In making this decision, the judge will evaluate the following factors: the egregiousness of your criminal actions that resulted in the conviction, how long you were participating in human trafficking, the overall particulars of your case, how much money you made while committing the crime, and how much pain and anguish the victim underwent because of your actions.  Also, the alleged victim could sue you in civil court for very serious amounts of money and the government could seize your property to compensate the victim.  In many cases, if you received a criminal conviction under California Penal Code 236.1 PC Human Trafficking, the victim is almost assuredly going to win in a civil lawsuit.

What are the available legal defenses if charged with California Penal Code 236.1 PC Human Trafficking?

The potential punishments under California Penal Code 236.1 PC Human Trafficking can be quite severe.  And the affect on your reputation, let alone the registry requirement, can make it very difficult to live a regular life once you are out of prison.  For this reason, it is important to under the available legal defenses.  Your Sex Crimes Attorney can review the specific details of your case and devise a strategy that utilizes all available legal defenses.  A skilled and experienced Sex Crimes Attorney can utilize both substantive and procedural legal defenses to achieve the best possible outcome in your case.  For example, if the evidence is strong against you, your Sex Crimes Attorney can lean more heavily on procedural defenses.  But leaning on substantive defenses might be the best strategy if the evidence against you is weak.  The key is to build a holistically sound, top-down defense that maximizes all your options.

Below are some of the more common legal defenses to California Penal Code 236.1 PC Human Trafficking:

False Accusation

The charge of California Penal Code 236.1 PC Human Trafficking has to source from somewhere.  The person to report it is often the alleged accuser.  Therefore, it is not uncommon for an upset employee to falsely accuse their employer of criminal conduct.  Additionally, it is possible that even though you committed a criminal act, such as pimping, you did not commit the more heinous crime of California Penal Code 236.1 PC Human Trafficking.  It is not uncommon for prostitutes to accuse their pimp of human trafficking, especially if they are caught up in legal trouble themselves and want to offer the police information in exchange for a lighter sentence.  In these types of cases, your Sex Crimes Attorney can use a variety of investigative and evidentiary tools to bring the truth to light

There was No Dispossession of Individual Liberty

Employer-employee relationships can often be rife with arguments and confusion.  The relationships are rarely black and white.  You may be accused of taking away the liberty of an employee when in reality the employee mistook what you said as a threat.  Regardless of the reason, a holistic evidentiary and investigative approach, especially from the start of a case, can bring the truth to light.  Your Sex Crimes Attorney may be able to get a case dismissed by revealing the truth of a situation to a prosecutor.

Mistaken Belief

If you did not realize you were committing acts of human trafficking, then you have a possible defense to California Penal Code 236.1 PC Human Trafficking.  Many employers, especially those who hire foreign workers, wrongly think they need to hold onto the immigration documents of their employees.  They actually think they are complying with the law when in fact they are not.  If the evidence can show you had this mistaken belief, your Sex Crimes Attorney can get the charges against you dropped.

What should you do if charged with California Penal Code 236.1 PC Human Trafficking?

As discussed above, the charges for a conviction under California Penal Code 236.1 PC Human Trafficking can be quite serious.  The best thing you can do is hire an knowledgeable and zealous Sex Crimes Attorney as soon as possible.  Criminal cases are pursued quickly and hastily.  The prosecutor and police are building an evidentiary record against you while you wait.  In order to level the playing field, it’s important that you have a Sex Crimes Attorney building the record in your favor.

Being charged with California Penal Code 236.1 PC Human Trafficking can be a daunting and scary process.  We invite you to talk to one of our Sex Crimes Attorneys.  They will happily review your specific case, go over what are likely to be the biggest issues, discuss any possible punishments, and explain any available legal defenses.  If you choose to retain them, they can begin fighting your case immediately.  In fact, in some cases, your Sex Crimes Attorney can stop charges from ever being filed.  If charges have already been filed, your Sex Crimes Attorney can build the evidentiary record in your favor such the prosecutor may be forced to reduce or dismiss charges.  And in the unlikely event you need to go to trial, you want a Sex Crimes Attorney skilled in undergoing trials.  This lets the prosecutors know you are not messing around and won’t settle for a bogus plea bargain offer.  The key is being prepared on all levels.

For a free criminal defense consultation, please call 424-835-9799.

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