How Do Prosecutors Prove a Sex Trafficking Case?

Posted by Ronald D. HeddingJun 01, 2022

Sex trafficking is a significant new crime, not only in Los Angeles, Orange County, and surrounding counties in California, but across the nation, and prosecutors – whether they be at the federal level or the state level in the local courts – are very serious about stamping out sex trafficking.

How Do Prosecutors Prove a Sex Trafficking Case?

What that has to do with – at least the core of it – is you have underage women who are runaways or out on the streets or social media for whatever reason, and they are being taken advantage of by men who are trafficking them or using them to perform sex acts for money. 

So, the victim in a sex trafficking situation is the girl who is being used and is under the age of 18 or even over the age of 18. Still, typically in sex trafficking, they're targeting girls under the age of 18 and are having sex for money.

Of course, the perpetrators of the crime are anybody associated with it – either fostering it or profiting from you. One of the biggest reasons sex trafficking cases are being prosecuted at such a high rate is that so many of these crimes are going on because of the internet and social media. 

In California, sex trafficking is described as “compelling or coercing somebody to provide or engage in a commercial sex act, through either psychological or physical means. “  Our California criminal defense lawyers will review this topic further below.

What is Pimping and Pandering?

The main person I see get charged in a sex trafficking sweep is the pimp who is benefiting – getting money from pimping out young girls to men who are having sex with these young girls for money.

Pimping and pandering are serious felony offenses under California Penal Code 266h and 266i PC.  They involve the illegal trafficking of others for purposes of commercial sex acts, meaning exchanging money or other things of value for sexual acts, i.e. prostitution.

Pimping and Pandering

While pimping and pandering are two distinct crimes, they are so closely related that it is common for defendants charged with one of the two offenses also to be charged with the other. However, each offense has different elements of the crime, such as:

  • Pimping is connected with somebody receiving the earnings of a prostitute,
  • Pandering occurs when somebody persuades another person to become or remain a prostitute.

The men are also targets of the police if they can catch them and decide that they are involved in a sex trafficking situation.

But usually, the stings associated with sex trafficking involve the police substituting themselves for the men who are the Johns and claiming that they want to have sex. They set up the woman, who is the victim.

They also target the man who is often behind the scenes trying to profit from sex trafficking activity.  These are the two main targets. Also, anybody who is posting images of women associated with trafficking – whether they be of age or underage – will be targeted as well, both by the federal and state government. 

What is Human Trafficking?

California Penal Code 236.1 PC describes human trafficking as depriving somebody of their personal liberty with the intent to obtain forced labor or services. This law includes violations of:

  • child pornography laws,
  • pimping and pandering laws,
  • sexual exploitation of children, and
  • blackmail and extortion laws.

Sex trafficking also has language prohibiting persuading, or attempting, to persuade a minor to engage in commercial sex acts with the intent to violate these laws.

California citizens took a strong stand against sex trafficking by passing Proposition 35 in November 2012, which gave law enforcement the authority to crack down on human sex trafficking and significantly increased the penalties for sex trafficking. For instance, anyone convicted of sex trafficking of a minor with force or fraud could receive a sentence of life in state prison.

Proposition 35, the “Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act,” targets sex trafficking offenses e by increasing the penalties and expanding the legal definition of sexual exploitation.

What Are the Related Crimes for Sex Trafficking?

  • Penal Code 236.1(b) PC - human trafficking child porn or pimping,
  • Penal Code 266 PC - enticing a child to commit prostitution, 
  • Penal Code 266h PC – pimping,
  • Penal Code 266i PC – pandering,
  • Penal Code267 PC - abducting a child for prostitution,
  • Penal Code 311.1 PC - child pornography laws,
  • Penal Code 311.4 PC - employing minors for child pornography,
  • Penal Code 518 PC - blackmail or extortion,
  • 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 laws,
  • Penal Code 186.22 PC – criminal street gang enhancement,
  • Penal Code 653.23 PC - supervising or aiding a prostitute,
  • Penal Code 653.22 PC – loitering for prostitution,
  • Penal Code 647(b) PC – solicitation of prostitution,
  • Penal Code 272 PC - delinquency of a minor,
  • Penal Code 647(a) – lewd acts in public.

Why Do You Need a Criminal Attorney?

So, if you or a loved one is charged with sex trafficking, you want to get an attorney who has experience in this area.

Why Do You Need a Criminal Attorney?

Sometimes someone can get charged with this crime but not really be involved with what I just said, but somehow, tangentially involved with something similar to it, and of course, the police and prosecutors try to jam it into a sex trafficking case.  It sounds much worse, and they can get much harsher penalties.

So, if you need help, pick up the phone now.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.  I've been doing this now for 30 years.  I worked for the district attorney's office in East Los Angeles in the early 1990s and then for a superior court judge as his right-hand man.

So, I have a pretty good feel for how the criminal justice system dispenses justice, and of course, I've been a criminal defense attorney representing people like you and your loved ones since 1994.

So, pick up the phone.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.  I stand at the ready to help you. The Hedding Law Firm is based in Los Angeles County and serves people across Southern California. We offer a free case consultation by phone or by filling out our contact form.