Human trafficking continues to be one of the most common global human rights abuses affecting the modern world, and the growing refugee crisis has only made the problem worse. While some Americans might think of human trafficking as a problem of the developing world, many large U.S. cities are actually major trafficking hubs, including San Francisco, California.
In fact, the FBI recently identified the San Francisco Bay Area as one of the top three regions for child sex trafficking in the United States. According to the "3rd Human Trafficking in San Francisco Report" published by the City and County of San Francisco in April 2018, up to 529 human trafficking survivors were identified in the region in 2016 alone.
However, like most serious issues, a lot of the important complexities surrounding these issues are lost in media coverage. Too often, victims are forgotten and civil rights are ignored.
California Continues To Grapple With the Best Way To Stop Human Trafficking
Based on the information that's available from the National Human Trafficking Hotline, the state of California continues to be one of the top states for trafficking in the country. A recent report included data from 2016 collected by 18 different agencies.
Of the San Francisco trafficking survivors who have been identified, 24% were minors and 74% were under the age of 25. Sex trafficking made up 46% of all identified cases that year, while labor trafficking made up an additional 42%.
This may be due to California's large population, close proximity to international borders, robust public transit systems, and industries susceptible to exploitation. Human trafficking is defined by California law as a crime involving the coercion of a person to provide labor or services and/or to engage in commercial sexual acts. The law also includes coercing a minor to engage in commercial sexual acts. Coercive behavior, the California law states, involves a variety of emotional and physical abuse.
No one supports human trafficking, and many non-profits and politicians are doing excellent work to combat this crime and support victims. However, like drunk driving and other sex crimes, human and sex trafficking is often used by career politicians and prosecutors to prove their “tough on crime” credentials. As a result, victims are re-traumatized, sex workers are put at an increased risk, and defendants' civil rights are abandoned altogether.
Often, this type of legal crusade leads to a redundant and unduly harsh patchwork of laws. For instance, the Los Angeles Times reported that in 2016 more than 30 bills were introduced in the California legislative session to address human trafficking. At the national level, a similar movement is happening. Recently, many criminal defense attorneys and victims advocates alike criticized congress's new anti-sex worker bill. The legislation was called the "Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act" in the Senate and the "Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act" in the House, or SESTA-FOSTA.
Sadly, most experts agree this type of legislation only hurts sex workers and victims of trafficking.
What To Do If You Are Charged With Human Trafficking in San Francisco, California
In response to this crackdown, many innocent people have been charged with human trafficking and sex trafficking. Defendants who would have been charged with misdemeanors in the past may now face years of prison time. Too often, cases of prostitution or solicitation are often charged as sex trafficking cases without just cause. And when prosecutors treat routine prostitution, solicitation, pimping, and pandering cases as human and sex trafficking cases, the constitutional rights of defendants are seriously threatened.
We believe this is a serious abuse of the law, one that represents a major overreach of the criminal justice system. Historically, crackdowns like this leave victims in the cold, while disproportionately affecting immigrants and defendants of color. In an attempt to fight human rights abuses, defendants' civil rights are trampled upon.
Because these charges can have life-changing consequences, we are not exaggerating when we say that your freedom and future are on the line. That's why representation by a highly skilled, aggressive defense attorney is essential to fight these charges.
If you have been charged with human trafficking, sex crimes, or similar federal offenses, then you need and deserve the absolute best legal representation. The Law Offices of Seth P. Chazin provides you with a San Francisco criminal defense attorney with over 30 years experience. When your freedom is on the line, you need aggressive representation from a sex crimes lawyer -- contact us today by calling 415-222-6188.