Los Angeles Attorneys Pursue Sex Trafficking Claims in California
Holding sex traffickers accountable for emotional and physical injuries
Any type of sexual assault crime changes a victims life forever. Sexual assaults involve intimidation, physical force, and nonconsensual sexual acts including sexual intercourse, and other illegal conduct. Sex trafficking is generally the purchasing or offering sex for money through force or through the exploitation of minors. Sex trafficking may involve just one individual, but more often, it is a coordinated effort involving companies and organizations who seek to profit from these horrendous acts.
At Taylor & Ring, our Los Angeles sex trafficking lawyers have the experience and resources to file and litigate these cases in court. We work with investigators to prove trafficking occurred, and with medical professionals and counsellors to verify the physical harm and long-term emotional scars of the victims. We have a team of female and male lawyers to explain your rights and calmly guide you through the litigation process.
How does California define sex trafficking?
Sex trafficking is defined by federal law under Title 18 U.S. Code § 1591. The law:
- Applies to conduct that affects interstate or foreign commerce
- Applies to anyone who knowingly recruits, entices, harbors, transports, provides, obtains, advertises, maintains, patronizes, or solicits by any means or benefits financially from such conduct though use of force, threats of force, fraud, or coercion
- Applies if the conduct causes a person to engage in a commercial sex act
- If the conduct causes someone (regardless of force or other acts) who is under age 18 to engage in a commercial sex act.
A commercial sex act is “any sex act, on account of which anything of value is given to or received by any person.” Forced prostitution is a common form of sex trafficking.
How pervasive is sex trafficking in California and Los Angeles?
The California Department of Justice (DOJ) defines human trafficking as a crime which “involves compelling or coercing a person to provide labor or services, or to engage in commercial sex acts.” Coercion can take many forms, including violence, debt bondage, threats, and lies. If a minor is involved, then engagement in sexual acts is considered sex trafficking – even if coercion is not involved.
Federal reports estimate there are 14,500 to 17,500 victims of human trafficking each year. Further, of the 1,656 human trafficking cases reported in California in 2018, 1,226 were sex trafficking cases. Many cases are never reported. According to Human Rights First, worldwide, sex trafficking profits are $99 billion – about two-thirds of the global profits for human trafficking.
Sex trafficking victims generally include:
- People from a low socio-economic status
- Children in foster care
- People who have previous history of domestic violence or sexual abuse
According to a USA Today study:
- Most but not all of the victims of sex trafficking are female. However, there are male and transgender exceptions.
- One in seven runaways is a sex trafficking victim.
- Approximately 9,000 massage parlors in the United States are involved in sex trafficking.
- Victims are being unfairly charged for sex crimes they were forced to commit. The fear of sweeping victims of sex crimes into the prosecution’s net is a major concern, as expressed in a recent article in LAist.
According to the County of Los Angeles, LA is a major hub for the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Some of the victims are just 10 years old.
Who is liable in Los Angeles sex trafficking cases?
Sex trafficking organizers often include family members, smugglers, gangs, pimps, and other organizations.
In many cases where coercion was used or a minor was involved, the individuals and organizations that caused this reprehensible conduct first face criminal court. Our Los Angeles sexual assault lawyers work with local prosecutors and federal prosecutors to coordinate the civil case with the criminal case. The criminal case normally is tried first for several reasons:
- The need to stop the illegal conduct.
- The need to punish the wrongdoers.
- The need to deter sex trafficking by other organizations.
- The standard of proof is stronger in a criminal case than in a civil case. In a criminal case, the prosecution must prove its claim beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil case, the victim must prove her/his claim through a preponderance of evidence.
In the civil case, our Los Angeles sex trafficking lawyers fight to introduce the conviction itself into evidence. We also work to introduce the same or similar evidence (police and witness testimony, police, and medical records) and other relevant information in the civil claim.
However, even if the defendant is cleared of criminal charges, a victim is still eligible to make a civil claim. Our Los Angeles sexual assault attorneys can provide compassionate and strong guidance in this process.
Holding hotels and motels accountable
A new and developing area of law in civil sex trafficking cases is investigating the role of hotels and motels in sex and human trafficking.
A lawsuit filed at the end of December 2019 alleges a number of hotel chains failed to protect a victim of sex trafficking in Oregon and Washington. According to CNN, the victim claims the hotels and motels allowed sex trafficking to occur openly on their properties, failed to intervene, and in doing so continued to earn a profit. Filed in federal court, the lawsuit names the following hotels:
- Hilton Worldwide Holdings, Inc.
- Wyndham Hotels & Resorts
- Marriott International
- Choice Hotels Corp.
- Extended Stay America
- Red Lion Hotels Corp
The hotels generally stated that they condemn human trafficking in all its forms, including sex trafficking.
The victim’s lawsuit claims that she was 22 when the crimes occurred and that she was repeatedly subject to “instances of rape, physical abuse, verbal abuse, exploitation, psychological torment, and false imprisonment at the Defendants' hotels.”
What damages are available in sex trafficking cases?
Civil cases are meant to compensate the victim for their physical pain, the emotional pain and suffering they endure, and any related loss of income. Generally, victims in sex trafficking cases also file a claim for punitive damages to punish the wrongdoers for their conduct.
We work with psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, and medical professionals trained to help victims of any type of sexual crime get the help they need. We work with these medical care providers to testify in court and prepare medical reports and documentation – to verify how traumatic, disabling, and horrendous sex crimes such as sex trafficking are. Many victims of sex crimes live with a lifetime of fear, anxiety, and depression.
Additionally, many of these victims are minors. Vulnerable victims may need to have a parent or a legal guardian represent them, requiring experienced legal counsel, as many may not have guardians or adults they can trust.
Speak with an experienced Los Angeles sex trafficking attorney as soon as you can
If you or anyone who you know is victim of sex trafficking, we are ready to help. At Taylor & Ring, our Los Angeles sexual assault lawyers are especially sensitive to the nature of sex crimes. We work to address your emotional and physical injuries by connecting you with trained professionals and by holding wrongdoers accountable.
You can trust Taylor & Ring to fight for your dignity and your right to continue your life with confidence. We are experienced trial lawyers with a strong reputation for holding those who commit or allow criminal offenses to be held responsible. To arrange a consultation with a caring but strong personal injury lawyer, call us at 310.776.6390, or fill out our contact form.