Human trafficking definitions in international and federal law

Trafficking is a worldwide problem. Anyone facing these charges could be in a complex situation.

In fact, the number of laws and jurisdictions makes it nearly impossible to apply general information about this crime to any specific case. This article looks at two main ideas: international and United States definitions.

Trafficking worldwide

The United Nations defines human trafficking by looking at three aspects: the act, the purpose and the means. In general, the act is the trade of humans. Purposes could include forced labor, realizing removal of organs or sexual servitude. Forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception and so on form the means.

For example, someone taking people into the country to work as unpaid, undocumented laborers might face human trafficking charges. Illegal immigration, conversely, is not necessarily human trafficking. The motive for the immigrants is not always the result of fraud, abduction or coercion.

Nevertheless, human trafficking is a worldwide issue that affects millions of people and families every year. Traffickers tend to target groups that are at risk in physical, emotional, economic or social terms. As a result, these crimes often represent a key enforcement area for governments.

Trafficking in the States

In the United States, as explained on FindLaw, the law has a strong association between slavery and human trafficking. Enforcement here is very aggressive, and penalties are high:

  • 20-year maximum prison sentences, up to life for aggravating factors (loss of life, kidnapping, sexual violence and so on)
  • Minimum of 10 years up to life in prison for fraudulent, forceful or coercive sex trafficking of children
  • Mandatory monetary restitution to victims (unlike many other criminal charges, which often leave this to civil courts)
  • Punishment for attempts and conspiracies

Not all of these cases have an international aspect. However, due to overlapping jurisdictions and federal law, even interstate or local human trafficking cases can be very complex.