What Are the Best Defenses for Sex Trafficking Charges?

Posted by Ronald D. HeddingJun 29, 2022

Sex trafficking is a severe crime in Los Angeles and the surrounding counties in California.  Local state and federal law enforcement agencies have aggressively fought against sex trafficking.

It's primarily underage women working on the local streets or social media. There are people behind the scenes who are taking advantage of them by using them to perform sex with men for money.

 Best Defenses for Sex Trafficking Charges

I've defended a lot of people who are charged with sex trafficking.  Most of the time, I noticed that the prosecutors and police had blown a situation out of proportion, or they were accusing somebody of being involved in sex trafficking, which does not fit the definition of what they're trying to ram the person into.

First and foremost, you have to realize what sex trafficking is.  It typically involves someone operating as a pimp, assisting or forcing a woman into prostitution.

I have seen cases where men are involved in engaging in prostitution-type activity, and usually, the young woman is under the age of 18.  That's where you'll see this definition of sex trafficking come up. California Penal Code 236.1 PC defines human trafficking as depriving someone of their liberty with the intent to obtain forced labor or services.

The related crime of Penal Code 266h and 266i, pimping and pandering, involves the unlawful trafficking of others for commercial sex acts, meaning exchanging money or other things of value for sexual acts, i.e., prostitution.  Our California criminal defense lawyers will look at these laws below.

What is Pimping and Pandering?

While they are separate laws, pimping and pandering are so closely connected that most defendants charged with one offense will also be charged with the other. These statutes are commonly used in sex trafficking charges:

  • Pimping is related to someone receiving the earnings of a prostitute,
  • Pandering is when someone persuades someone to become or remain a prostitute.

To be found guilty of felony pimping, the prosecutor must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you received financial support from someone you understood was engaging in prostitution or attempted to receive compensation by locating their customers, called a “John.”

Pimping and pandering are straight felony crimes, not a “wobbler.” The only type of related crime that is a misdemeanor is the crime of supervising or aiding a prostitute described under California Penal Code 653.23.

What Are Other Crimes Related to Sex Trafficking?

  • Penal Code 266 PC - enticing a child to prostitution, 
  • Penal Code 267 PC - abducting a child for prostitution,
  • Penal Code 311.1 PC - child pornography laws,
  • Penal Code 311.4 PC - employing a minor for child porn,
  • Penal Code 288.2 PC - sending harmful matter to a minor,
  • Penal Code 288.4 PC - arranging a meeting with a minor,
  • Penal Code 207 and 209 PC – kidnapping,
  • Penal Code 186.22 PC – street gang enhancement law,
  • Penal Code 653.22 PC – loitering for prostitution,
  • Penal Code 647(b) PC – solicitation of prostitution,
  • Penal Code 647(a) – lewd acts in public,
  • Penal Code 518 PC - blackmail or extortion,
  • Penal Code 272 PC - delinquency of a minor.

What Are Some Possible Legal Defenses?

So, if you or a loved one is charged with a sex trafficking-related offense and there are a bunch of different ones to cover a bunch of other activities, then obviously, you're going to want to defend yourself.  First, one of the best ideas I would have is:

Possible Legal Defenses for Sex Trafficking
  • was this woman even engaging in any sexual activity that you are connected to or associated with?
  • did you have any knowledge of the actual age of this woman?

Sometimes people post things on websites, for example, soliciting men for sex, and you must be 18 years old to post on that site. 

Other times, I've seen women have fake IDs showing they're 18 or older.  So, the question becomes, how does the supposed pimp know that the person is under the age of 18?  That's a defense; that's an idea of how you can defend yourself.

Also another big thing I noticed is a lot of these women are putting their ads on the internet and acting as their pimps. When they get caught, they face charges, or maybe they're a runaway; whatever the case may be, they suddenly start blaming someone else, so they don't have to shoulder any blame for the offense. 

Should You Fight the Case or Plea Bargain?

That's the first set of ideas I would have, which relates to defending yourself and saying that you're not guilty.  That's one of the first things you have to decide, which is whether or not you talk to your attorney:

  • you review the evidence,
  • you know what you did,
  • you know what you didn't do,
  • you know what you knew, and
  • you know what you didn't know.

Once you assess all of that, you have to decide, are we going to fight this case, or are we going to work out some deal?

So, what I just talked about has to do with fighting the case, saying you are innocent, or at least mitigating the case and trying to get something less than one of these severe sex trafficking charges that involve registering as a sex offender a lot of times and jail or prison time. 

Can You Negotiate with the Prosecutor?

Yes. The next area related to sex trafficking is trying to negotiate with the prosecutors.  If you don't have a criminal record and you have some defenses to what you're being charged with, you may have the opportunity to try to negotiate a sentence that:

Negotiate with the Prosecutor on Sex Trafficking Charges
  • doesn't involve any jail or prison time;
  • doesn't involve sex registration, or
  • if it does involve sex registration, you'd want to be in the lower tier.

There's a 10-year, a 20-year, and a lifetime registration, and trying to get a different charge is also possible depending on the case's circumstances.  That's a lot there:

  • trying to keep out of custody;
  • trying to preserve your freedom; and
  • trying to deal with sex registration.

Some of the ideas show weaknesses in the prosecutor's case. Another idea is to show you as a person.  Hopefully, you've got some good things going on for you. 

You've got some character references; maybe you don't have a criminal record, you have no sex crime charges in your past – these are some of the angles and arguments that need to be made on your behalf.

So, if you or a loved one is charged with sex trafficking, you need the best; pick up the phone now.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.  Let my 30 years of experience go to work for you. The Hedding Law Firm is based in Los Angeles, California. We provide a free initial case review via phone or contact form.