According to the State Department, approximately 27 million men, women, and children worldwide are victims of some form of human trafficking. Unfortunately, Indiana isn’t untouched by these numbers. In 2019, 157 Indiana human trafficking cases were reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. This figure marked a 19 percent increase from 2018, although attorney general Curtis Hill believes these numbers are significantly underreported. About 40 of the 157 cases involved minors.
Indiana is working hard to create more strategies to reduce human trafficking and hold traffickers accountable. Here’s what you need to know about human trafficking and the charges for the crime.
What is human trafficking?
Human trafficking occurs when people use force, fraud, or coercion to compel others into labor or commercial sexual exploitation. It might involve slavery, prostitution, organ removal, forced marriage, or other illicit acts.
Many people have misconceptions about human trafficking due to sensationalized portrayals in films or on television shows. For example, people often think that such trafficking doesn’t occur in the United States or only involves immigrants, either as traffickers or victims.
In reality, human trafficking often happens in various families and communities all across the U.S. Traffickers can be community figures, sports coaches, family friends, religious leaders, or the quiet family down the street. It almost always involves someone with authority taking advantage of a vulnerable person whose basic needs aren’t being met in some way.
What are the penalties for being convicted of human trafficking?
Human trafficking has very serious consequences that range in severity depending on the nature of the offense. For example, under Indiana law, § 35-42-3.5-1, a person who, by force, threat of force, or fraud, knowingly or intentionally recruits, harbors, or transports another person to engage the person in human trafficking activities, commits a level four felony, which is punishable by 2 to 12 years in prison and fines up to $10,000. If the victim is under age 16, the trafficker faces a level 3 felony, which can bring 3 to 16 years in prison, and fines up to $10,000.
Anyone who pays, or offers to pay, for another person they know has been forced into trafficking activities is subject to a level 5 felony, punishable by 1 to 6 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
If you are convicted of engaging in the sale, transfer of custody of a person, the penalties become even more severe. In such cases, a trafficker faces a level 2 felony, which is punishable by 10 to 30 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
If you have been arrested for human trafficking, it is crucial that you retain an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. Even if the charges are later dropped, the arrest can stay on your record, forever impacting your life. Call the qualified criminal defense lawyers of Razumich & Associates to learn how to best defend yourself and protect your rights. We are ready to fight for you. Contact us today.