Federal Human Trafficking

The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 was the first federal human trafficking statute enacted in the United States when it was signed into law by President Bill Clinton, and the law was subsequently authorized by both President George W. Bush and President and Barack Obama. The Act called for the creation of the President's Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons to coordinate anti-trafficking efforts among various federal government agencies, and now numerous federal agencies have implemented programs to assist in the prosecution of alleged human traffickers.

The Department of State has the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons that coordinates international anti-trafficking programs and efforts, the Department of Defense (DOD) has the Combating Trafficking in Persons (CTIP) Program Office that enforces DOD’s zero tolerance policy for trafficking in persons, and the Department of Health & Human Services has funded the National Human Trafficking Hotline since 2008.

Federal law has a number of statutes applicable to alleged human trafficking crimes. In some cases, convictions may carry mandatory minimum sentences and also be punishable by very large fines.

Defense Lawyer for Federal Human Trafficking in West Palm Beach, FL

If you think that you might be under investigation or you were already arrested for human trafficking in South Florida, it is in your best interest to say nothing to authorities until you have legal representation. Meltzer & Bell, P.A. aggressively defends clients facing federal charges in Palm Beach Gardens, Greenacres, Lake Worth, Royal Palm Beach, Riviera Beach, and many other communities in Broward County, Palm Beach County, and Miami-Dade County.

Lawrence Meltzer and Steven Bell are experienced criminal defense attorneys in West Palm Beach who will work tirelessly to help you achieve the most favorable outcome to your case that results in the fewest possible consequences. You can have our lawyers provide an honest and thorough evaluation of your case as soon as you call (561) 283-3259 to take advantage of a free, confidential consultation. 


Palm Beach County Federal Human Trafficking Information Center


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Federal Human Trafficking Definitions in TVPA

Title 22 U.S.C. § 7102 provides several definitions relating to human trafficking. Under 22 U.S.C. § 7102(9), the phrase “severe forms of trafficking in persons” is defined as: 

  • sex trafficking—defined under 22 U.S.C. § 7102(10) as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act—in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or 
  • the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery (essentially labor trafficking). 

A commercial sex act is defined as “any sex act on account of which anything of value is given to or received by any person” under 22 U.S.C. § 7102(4). The term coercion is defined under 22 U.S.C. § 7102(3) as meaning: 

  • threats of serious harm to or physical restraint against any person; 
  • any scheme, plan, or pattern intended to cause a person to believe that failure to perform an act would result in serious harm to or physical restraint against any person; or 
  • the abuse or threatened abuse of the legal process

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Federal Human Trafficking Penalties

In addition to the TVPA, some of the other federal laws relating to human trafficking include the Customs and Facilitations and Trade Enforcement Reauthorization Act of 2009, the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, the PROTECT Act of 2003, the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000 (CAFRA), and the Mann Act of 1910. 

Some of the federal statutes that a person may be prosecuted under for a federal human trafficking crime include: 

  • Vessels for slave trade, 18 U.S.C. § 1582 — A person who builds, fits out, equips, loads, or otherwise prepares or sends away any vessel or causes such vessel to sail from any port or place within the United States, for the purpose of procuring any person from any foreign kingdom or country to be transported and held, sold, or otherwise disposed of as a slave, or held to service or labor can be sentenced to up to seven years is prison and a fine of up to $250,000; 
  • Enticement into slavery, 18 U.S.C. § 1583 — A person who kidnaps or carries away any other person, with the intent that such other person be sold into involuntary servitude, or held as a slave; entices, persuades, or induces any other person to go on board any vessel or to any other place with the intent that he or she may be made or held as a slave, or sent out of the country to be so made or held; or obstructs, or attempts to obstruct, or in any way interferes with or prevents the enforcement of this section, can be sentenced to up to 20 years is prison and a fine of up to $250,000. If an offense results in the death of the victim or the violation includes kidnaping, an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse, an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, a conviction is punishable be a sentence of up to life in prison and a fine of up to $250,000; 
  • Sale into involuntary servitude, 18 U.S.C. § 1584 — A person who knowingly and willfully holds to involuntary servitude or sells into any condition of involuntary servitude, any other person for any term, or brings within the United States any person so held, or obstructs, attempts to obstruct, or in any way interferes with or prevents the enforcement of this section can be sentenced to up to 20 years is prison and a fine of up to $250,000. If an offense results in the death of the victim or the violation includes kidnaping, an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse, an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, a conviction is punishable be a sentence of up to life in prison and a fine of up to $250,000; 
  • Seizure, detention, transportation or sale of slaves, 18 U.S.C. § 1585 — A person who seizes another person with intent to make that person a slave, or decoys, or forcibly brings, carries, receives, confines, detains or transports any person as a slave on board a vessel, or, on board such vessel, offers or attempts to sell any such person as a slave, or on the high seas or anywhere on tide water, transfers or delivers to any other vessel any such person with intent to make such person a slave, or lands or delivers on shore from such vessel any person with intent to sell, or having previously sold, such person as a slave, can be sentenced to up to seven years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000; 
  • Service on vessels in slave trade, 18 U.S.C. § 1586 — A person who is a citizen or resident of the United States who voluntarily serves on board of any vessel employed or made use of in the transportation of slaves from any foreign country or place to another can be sentenced to up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000; 
  • Possession of slaves aboard vessel, 18 U.S.C. § 1587 — Any person who is the captain, master, or commander of any vessel found in any river, port, bay, harbor, or on the high seas within the jurisdiction of the United States, or hovering off the coast thereof, and having on board any person for the purpose of selling such person as a slave, or with intent to land such person for such purpose can be sentenced to up to four years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000; 
  • Transportation of slaves from United States, 18 U.S.C. § 1588 — Any person who is the master or owner or person having charge of any vessel, receives on board any other person with the knowledge or intent that such person is to be carried from any place within the United States to any other place to be held or sold as a slave, or carries away from any place within the United States any such person with the intent that he may be so held or sold as a slave can be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000; 
  • Forced labor, 18 U.S.C. § 1589 — A person who knowingly provides or obtains the labor or services of a person by any one of, or by any combination of enumerated prohibited means or knowingly benefits, financially or by receiving anything of value, from participation in a venture which has engaged in the providing or obtaining of labor or services by any of the prohibited means can be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. If an offense results in the death of the victim or the violation includes kidnaping, an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse, an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, a conviction is punishable be a sentence of up to life in prison and a fine of up to $250,000; 
  • Trafficking with respect to peonage, slavery, involuntary servitude, or forced labor, 18 U.S.C. § 1590 — A person who knowingly recruits, harbors, transports, provides, or obtains by any means, any person for labor or services can be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. If an offense results in the death of the victim or the violation includes kidnaping, an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse, an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, a conviction is punishable be a sentence of up to life in prison and a fine of up to $250,000;
  • Sex trafficking of children or by force, fraud, or coercion, 18 U.S.C. § 1591 — A person who knowingly in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, or within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, recruits, entices, harbors, transports, provides, obtains, advertises, maintains, patronizes, or solicits by any means a person; or benefits, financially or by receiving anything of value, from participation in a venture which has engaged in an act described in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1591(a)(1), knowing, or in reckless disregard of the fact, that means of force, threats of force, fraud, coercion, or any combination of such means will be used to cause the person to engage in a commercial sex act, or that the person has not attained the age of 18 years and will be caused to engage in a commercial sex act, can be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 if the offense was effected by means of force, threats of force, fraud, or coercion, or by any combination of such means, or if the person recruited, enticed, harbored, transported, provided, obtained, advertised, patronized, or solicited had not attained the age of 14 years at the time of such offense. When an offense was not so effected, and the person recruited, enticed, harbored, transported, provided, obtained, advertised, patronized, or solicited had attained the age of 14 years but had not attained the age of 18 years at the time of such offense, a conviction is punishable by a minimum of 10 years in prison up to life and a fine of up to $250,000. A person who obstructs, attempts to obstruct, or in any way interferes with or prevents the enforcement of this section can be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison up to life and a fine of up to $250,000; and 
  • Unlawful conduct with respect to documents in furtherance of trafficking, peonage, slavery, involuntary servitude, or forced labor, 18 U.S.C. § 1592 — A person who knowingly destroys, conceals, removes, confiscates, or possesses any actual or purported passport or other immigration document, or any other actual or purported government identification document, of another person in the course of a violation of an enumerated section; with intent to violate an enumerated section; or to prevent or restrict or to attempt to prevent or restrict, without lawful authority, the person’s liberty to move or travel, in order to maintain the labor or services of that person, when the person is or has been a victim of a severe form of trafficking in persons, can be sentenced to up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

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Federal Human Trafficking Resources in Palm Beach County

Human Trafficking | Polaris - Polaris Project — Polaris is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that is named after the North Star that guided slaves to freedom in the United States. Visit this website to access human trafficking statistics. You can also learn more about sex trafficking and labor trafficking.

Human Trafficking/Involuntary Servitude | FBI — According to this section of the FBI website, human trafficking is the third-largest criminal activity in the world. On this website, you can learn more about FBI human trafficking task forces, the Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team (ACTeam), and the Enhanced Collaborative Model to Combat Human Trafficking. The website also discusses trafficking investigations.


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Find a Federal Human Trafficking Defense Attorney in West Palm Beach, FL

Were you arrested or do you believe that you could be under investigation for a federal human trafficking offense in South Florida? You will want to contact Meltzer & Bell, P.A. as soon as possible. 

West Palm Beach criminal defense lawyers Lawrence Meltzer and Steven Bell represent individuals in communities throughout Broward County, Palm Beach County, and Miami-Dade County, including Boynton Beach, Jupiter, Boca Raton, Wellington, Delray Beach, and several others. Call (561) 283-3259 or complete an online contact form to have our attorneys review your case and answer all of your legal questions during a free initial consultation.


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