F.M., Santa Monica
A: The signs of human trafficking may include: an appearance of violence, unexplained bruises, black eyes, cuts or marks; behaviors such as fear, anxiety, depression, hyper vigilance, nervousness; someone who is easily startled, agitated or afraid; an individual unsure of where she or he is; a person not in control of money or documents; a person accompanied by an older “boyfriend” or other “companion”; he or she is dressed to look older or not appropriate to the actual weather or situation; or a name or symbol is tattooed or branded on the chest, arm or neck.
If you think human trafficking is occurring, there are a number of options, including: (a) Call 1-888-373-7888; and/or call 911; (b) and/or text 233733; (c) report a tip online at humantraffickinghotline.org; (d) chat with the National Human Trafficking Hotline at humantraffickinghotline.org; (e) report missing children or child pornography to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST (843-5678), or through their Cybertipline.Q: Human trafficking is an international tragedy and disgrace. What laws do we have to fight it?
K.T., Hermosa Beach
A: At the Federal level, there are many statutes on point: The Customs and Facilitations and Enforcement Reauthorization Act, which prohibits the import of goods here made through the use of human trafficking or forced labor; Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Preventing Act, which establishes the Human Smuggling and Trafficking Center to achieve integration and overall effectiveness in the government’s enforcement efforts; the Trafficking Protection Act, which contains methods of prosecuting traffickers, preventing human trafficking, protecting victims and survivors, and which has established human trafficking and related offenses as federal crimes; and, the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act which provides notice to property owners whose properties have been identified as being utilized to facilitate smuggling or harboring aliens.
In California, if convicted of trafficking to obtain forced labor or services, punishment is 5, 8 or 12 years in state prison, as well as a fine up to $500,000. Two new California laws are focused on combatting human trafficking through required training and notice postings. Moreover, California Penal Code Section 236.1, which you can find on line, is quite comprehensive, and makes human sex trafficking a crime.
Ron Sokol has been a practicing attorney for over 35 years, and has also served many times as a judge pro tem, mediator, and arbitrator. It is important to keep in mind that this column presents a summary of the law, and is not to be treated or considered legal advice, let alone a substitute for actual consultation with a qualified professional.