The announcement earlier this year that the State of Texas is seeking to bolster its enforcement of sex trafficking laws gives an indication of the scale of the problem in the Lone Star State.
In January, Texas set up the Human Trafficking and Transnational Organized Crime unit. It includes three lawyers, a forensic accountant, five investigators, and a victims’ advocate. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the increase in resources was targeted at a horrendous crime.
Sex trafficking has been illegal ever since the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution outlawing slavery was ratified in 1865. It hasn’t stopped hundreds of cases being reported in Texas.
Last year, 214 cases of human trafficking were reported in the state. Of these, 165 involved sex trafficking. The Polaris Project, a group that works to end trafficking, put the figure even higher at 330.
It said a third of reported cases, 110, involved children. The City of Houston had more trafficking victims in 2015 than in any other American city. Only California has more sex trafficking victims than Texas.
You can be charged with a number of different sex trafficking crimes. They include:
A new law in 2011 set up tougher penalties for sex trafficking. It created a new offense for compelling prostitution by adult and child victims. Texas also beefed up conditions for parole and bail. The legislation defined prosecutable forms of human trafficking in forced sexual acts and forced labor. People convicted of trafficking children now face a first-degree felony punishable and five to 99 years to life in prison. They face fines of to $10,000.
Sex traffickers must register with the Texas Sex Offender Registry. The recent legislation has given judges discretion to order human traffickers to serve consecutive instead of concurrent sentences, often meaning they spend longer behind bars.
Sex trafficking cases entail big investigations and big sentences. The increased effort put into fighting sex trafficking means prosecutors are hungry for results. In some cases people may be unwittingly drawn into these investigations. In cases involving immigrants there may be gray areas about what constitutes sex trafficking.
If you are accused of a sex trafficking crime, it’s vital to hire an experienced Fort Worth criminal defense attorney from the outset. Gary Medlin has worked in criminal practice for more than 32 years. Call us today at (682) 204-4066.