A man and woman from Plantation are accused of human trafficking and forced commercial sex activity, after authorities say they lured women with the prospect of a job and then forced them to work as unpaid prostitutes.
Our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers expect many more of these types of arrest in the future, both for the fact that South Florida is considered the third-busiest human trafficking site in the U.S. and because state and federal authorities are emphasizing enforcement measures.
A recent report by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a national tracking organization, found a fourfold increase in child sex trafficking prosecutions nationwide since 2008. Officials say they have seen a “huge uptick,” but it’s worth noting that the increase is more likely the cause of more aggressive prosecution.
Human trafficking is considered a form of modern day slavery, and as such, it is treated very harshly by authorities. However, it is often taken far out of context by prosecutors, the media and others. Just because someone is working as a “pimp” doesn’t make that person a human trafficker because not all prostitutes are victims of human trafficking.
Most are not victims at all. They are adults who have made choices. It can be an extremely lucrative – and dangerous profession. Those providing protection should not be penalized under the same laws as those who force women and children into slavery.
Pimping, also known as “pandering” is generally charged in Florida under one of two statutes.
The first is Florida Statute 796.04, makes it illegal for anyone to force, compel or coerce another person to become a prostitute. A conviction on this charge is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison.
The second, Florida Statute 796.05, holds that it is unlawful for someone with a reasonable belief or knowing that a person is engaged in prostitution to live or derive support or maintenance in whole or in part from what is believed to be the proceeds or earnings of such person’s prostitution. This too is a third-degree felony, punishable by 5 years of incarceration.
Recently, the legislature took it a step further with the passage of Florida Statute 787.06, which covers human trafficking offenses such as kidnapping, false imprisonment, luring or enticing a child and custody offenses. The law provides an extensive definition as to what might constitute as human trafficking, but the bottom line is this:
Anyone who knowingly or in reckless disregard of the facts engages in or financially benefits by receiving anything of value from participating in a human trafficking venture that forces another individual to be coerced into either forced labor or sexual activity will face a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
Prosecutors these days are less frequently using the pandering charges and more often going right to the human trafficking charges.
In this most recent case, prosecutors allege that a 20-year-old woman worked to recruit women in Tampa and Orlando for jobs in the escort and pornography business. Once they arrived in Southeast Florida, they were picked up by the 27-year-old male defendant, who would buy them food and whatever other necessities they needed. Shortly after that, the women say, they were forced into prostitution.
The man has said he was just following instructions from his wife, who was not the 20-year-old woman.
Authorities were reportedly tipped to the operation, which made extensive use of the Internet site Backpage.com
If you are arrested in Fort Lauderdale, contact the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert, a Partnership of Former Prosecutors, for a free consultation to discuss your rights. Call 1.888.5.DEFEND.
Human trafficking suspects accused of prostituting women in Plantation, Aug. 20, 2013, By Erika Pesantes, Sun Sentinel
More Blog Entries:
South Florida Child Neglect Charges “Exaggerated,” Mom Says, Aug. 15, 2013, Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog