Human Trafficking in New Jersey

According to the FBI, human trafficking has emerged as the third-largest type of criminal activity in the world. The number of related arrests in the U.S. has continued to climb. Human trafficking is a crime where a victim is compelled to engage in activity in the realm of commercial sex. The victim is generally deceived, forced, or somehow coerced into prostitution. The crime is often committed by victimizing minors. In 2018, there were approximately 98 cases reported in the first six months of the year.

Keyla Munoz, of the FBI, explained that New Jersey is considered to be a “hub” for this type of activity. Part of the reason is that the state is positioned between several major metropolitan areas including New York, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. The chart below shows the industries and environments that are most closely associated with this type of activity and the number of cases involving each in 2018.

Massage Parlors and Spas

22

Residential Houses of Prostitution

8

Advertised Online—Unknown Venue

7

Escort Services

5

Based in Hotels or Motels

5

New Jersey Human Trafficking Prevention, Protection, and Treatment Act

This measure was enacted in 2013 and created a commission within New Jersey's Division of Criminal Justice, Department of Law and Public Safety. The law contained provisions establishing criminal and civil liability for those who engage in this form of illicit sexually-based activity. It also created agencies that provide victim assistance and a system for easily reporting any suspected activity.

Human Trafficking (2C:13-8)

This is a first-degree offense that may be committed by intentionally inducing, luring, recruiting, or otherwise holding someone to participate in a sexually-related activity through the following:

  • Using manipulation, coercion, physical force, or the threat of bodily injury
  • Through the destruction or concealment of a passport or other documentation issued by an agency of government that provides information regarding someone's age or identity
  • Through fraudulent, deceptive, or misleading tactics
  • By providing access to drugs

Individuals that are alleged to have participated in activities such as prostitution may employ a defense that they were a victim of human trafficking. Those convicted of human trafficking that involves a minor may be subject to a prison sentence with no parole eligibility for 20 years. Offenders may be ordered to pay restitution to their victim(s) in addition to a fine of $25,000 that will be added to the Human Trafficking Survivor's Assistance Fund.

Second Degree Human Trafficking (2C:13-9)

Individuals may be charged with a second-degree level of the offense when they are involved in more of a supportive role. This applies to any contribution of resources that facilitate the commission of human trafficking. Examples may include providing accommodations, transportation, acquiring or producing false documentation, or monetary support.

It must be proven that the alleged offender was aware that crimes of human trafficking were occurring. Evidence that the alleged offender had actual knowledge may include that they were aware that victims did not have the freedom to move as they wish or that they were prevented from possessing or using communication devices.

Understanding Prostitution

Acts of prostitution are defined as participating in sexual acts in order to obtain some economic benefit. The term “house of prostitution” refers to a venue or location where prostitution regularly occurs and is managed or supervised. Acts that are considered to be examples of promoting prostitution include recruiting, transporting, or otherwise procuring individuals to perform sexual acts and services. It may involve promoting the availability of sexual services to potential patrons through advertising or by knowingly providing or leasing a location that will regularly be used for prostitution.

Those who are coerced into prostitution, such as victims in sex trafficking operations, may be physically restrained or deprived of their ability to move freely. Coercion may also involve making threats of bodily harm or implying that failure to comply will result in bodily harm. The term “debt bondage” refers to a means of restraining a victim in order to repay a debt. This may occur by providing the victim a sum of money or something of value that will them be repaid through the performance of sexual acts. 

Criminal Restraint (2C:13-2)

The crime of criminal restraint is a third-degree offense that may involve physically restricting the movement of a victim against their will or requiring servitude through the threat of bodily harm. This does not apply to a parent or legal guardian that maintains reasonable control of a minor child.

Criminal Offenses in New Jersey

New Jersey employs an alternative means of classifying and grading criminal offenses. Crimes are either deemed as indictable offenses, disorderly person offenses, or petty disorderly person offenses. Indictable offenses are those that generally would be classified as felonies in other jurisdictions and are further classified to the first through fourth degree based on severity. Disorderly person offenses can be loosely equated with misdemeanor offenses and petty disorderly person offenses with minor misdemeanors. The maximum penalties that apply are as follows:

  • First Degree: Incarceration of up to 20 years and a fine of up to $200,000
  • Second Degree: Incarceration of up to 10 years and a fine of up to $150,000
  • Third Degree: Incarceration of up to 5 years and a fine of up to $15,000
  • Fourth Degree: Incarceration of up to 18 months and a fine of up to $10,000
  • Disorderly Person Offense: Incarceration of up to six months and a fine of up to $1,000
  • Petty Disorderly Person Offense: A fine of up to $500

Court Orders of Protection (2C:14-14)

Those who are alleged victims in cases of sexually-based offenses may have an order of protection implemented by the court. The court may put orders into effect during a pending criminal action. One example if when an alleged offender will be released from jail in the pretrial process. This temporary order will prohibit the alleged offender from having any contact with the victim or their family as well as other potential conditions.

If the alleged victim is a minor, their parent or legal guardian may initiate a request for an order of protection on behalf of the child. A permanent order of protection may be put in place by the court following the conclusion of the criminal proceedings.

Additional Penalty: Human Trafficking Survivor's Assistance Fund (2C:34-1.2)

Offenders that are convicted of first-degree human trafficking crimes may be subject to an additional $25,000 fine. This would be in addition to any of the statutory penalties imposed. These monies would specifically be used for the Human Trafficking Survivor's Assistance Fund that provides services for victims and their families. 

Criminal Defense Attorney for Trafficking Offenses

Attorney Joseph D. Lento has been providing tenacious defense on behalf of clients in New Jersey for many years. He employs a comprehensive approach that delivers results. Contact the office today for a case evaluation at (888) 535-3686.

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