By: Selah Freedom Team
We applaud Florida for its nation-leading comprehensive approach to fighting child sex trafficking. Sadly, the state still ranks third in the nation for calls to the national human trafficking hotline, only behind California and Texas. It is imperative that Florida must continue expanding its anti-trafficking efforts with urgency. Additionally, the threat to children has only increased with the COVID-19 pandemic pushing trafficking efforts further underground, some estimating the threat has risen by 40%.
According to a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report, children face a higher risk of recruitment and exploitation due to school closures, increased time online, and worsened economic situations creating a larger population of vulnerable persons.
Human trafficking is a felony in the State of Florida. Federal law through The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 defines human trafficking as:
“The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for (a) sex trafficking 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 (b) labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.”
Florida law takes this a step further, calling human trafficking “modern-day slavery” as victims of human trafficking are subject to force, fraud, or coercion. Florida law declares anyone who knowingly, or in reckless disregard of the facts, engages, or attempts to engage in human trafficking, or benefits financially from participation in a venture that has subjected a person to human trafficking includes the following offenses, and results in a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years’ imprisonment, up to a $10,000 fine, or both:
For labor or services of any child under the age of 18
Using coercion for labor or services of an adult
Using coercion for commercial sexual activity of an adult
For labor or services of any child who is under the age of 18 who is an unauthorized alien
Using coercion for labor or services of an adult who is an unauthorized alien
Using coercion for commercial sexual activity of an adult who is an authorized alien
For labor or services who does so by the transfer or transport of any child under the age of 18 from outside this state to within the state
Using coercion for labor or services who does so by the transfer or transport of an adult from outside this state to within the state
Using coercion for commercial sexual activity who does so by the transfer or transport of an adult from outside this state to within the state
For commercial sexual activity who does so by the transfer or trasnport of any child under the age of 18 from outside this state to within the state - also punishable by up to life imprisonment
The following offenses result in a life felony, punishable by life imprisonment, a $15,000 fine, or both:
For commercial sexual activity in which any child under the age of 18, or in which any person who is mentally defective or mentally incapacitated is involved commits a life felony, punishable by life imprisonment
Any person having custody or control of a minor, including a parent or legal guardian, selling or transferring, or offer to sell or transfer custody of that minor, with the knowledge or in reckless disregard of the fact that the minor will be subject to human trafficking
The following offense results in a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years’ imprisonment, a $10,000 fine, or both:
Any person who permanently brands a victim to commit or facilitate the preceding criminal act
“Permanently branded” means a mark on the individual’s body that, if it can be removed or repaired, can only be done by surgical means, laser treatment, or other medical procedures.
Part II of this blog (“Florida Takes the Lead in Fighting Human Trafficking”) will highlight efforts from 2004 thereafter on the legislative level and through a key initiative with University of South Florida’s “Turn Your Life Around” (TYLA) court diversion program.
Anyone who suspects signs of sex trafficking and victims in need of help can contact Selah Freedom at: 1-888-8-FREE-ME (888-837-3363)