Who Can Be Held Responsible For Human Sex Trafficking?

June 26, 2020

A person might face criminal charges and civil lawsuits for human sex trafficking in one state but not in another. Every state writes its own definition of what constitutes trafficking in their human trafficking state laws. The legal definitions vary from one state to another.

Some of the descriptions of human sex trafficking include coercing the victim by:

  • Taking the person’s driver’s license, passport, immigration papers, or other government documents
  • Forcing the person to work in the sex trade to pay off an actual or purported debt
  • Using or threatening physical harm to the victim or another person
  • Blackmailing the person
  • Kidnapping or abducting the victim
  • Using drugs and addiction to control the person
  • Manipulating the victim through fraud, deception, duress, or financial hardship

The actual trafficker can be liable both criminally and in civil court if the conduct satisfies the state’s human or sex trafficking statutes.

The Liability of Businesses for Sex Trafficking

Although many sex traffickers are individuals or small groups of criminals, a business can be engaged in this practice. Some states provide criminal and civil penalties against business entities that knowingly participate in these crimes. Depending on the state, a company could lose its business license, get dissolved or reorganized by the court, and/or face fines as well as criminal charges.

Some commercial establishments appear to be legitimate businesses but are actually fronts for sex trafficking. Also, reputable companies in the hotel and hospitality industry might not participate actively in sex trafficking, but their employees turn a blind eye to suspicious behavior.

Since the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, there have been many additional legislative developments to ban and penalize human sex trafficking. Hotels can face criminal and civil liability if they notice possible trafficking but fail to act.

The justification for this liability is that failing to act allows the crimes to take place at the hotels. The perpetrators rent rooms at the hotels, which means that the venues receive financial gain from the illegal activity on the premises.

Indicators of Sex Trafficking at Hotels

Hotels should train their employees to report instances in which they observe possible indicators of sex trafficking. Traffickers seldom bring their sex workers to the front desk of the hotel, so hotels need to be vigilant.

The workers who are most likely to notice suspicious activities are room service and housekeeping employees. Some examples of these factors include:

  • A “Do Not Disturb” placard on the door for several days or refusal of housekeeping services
  • Men frequently coming and going from the room
  • Several men waiting in the hallway outside of a room
  • An unusual amount of cash kept in the room
  • A woman who enters the room and then does not leave for an extended period
  • An underage boy or girl who spends a long time in the room unattended by an adult
  • A room gets rented for several days or weeks, but the occupant brings little if any luggage or personal items

Of course, some of the more obvious signs of sex trafficking include when the victim looks frightened or anxious, wears inappropriate clothing, or gets mistreated in public by the trafficker. Many criminals, however, make an effort to hide their conduct.

How Lawyers Can Help Fight the Battle Against Sex Trafficking

Attorneys can increase the awareness of human sex trafficking issues through social media that targets trafficking victims and hotel employees. You can generate leads that provide evidence that a hotel ignores suspicious behavior that endangers the victims of these crimes.

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