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Prostitution of Children: A Federal Crime

In San Francisco, Oakland, and the East Bay, human trafficking is big business. Since human traffickers do not discriminate between a 14-year-old child and an 18-year-old, a large number of underage victims are coerced into prostitution. When an adult voluntarily chooses a life of prostitution in California, generally they commit a misdemeanor when they engage in sexual conduct or intercourse for money.

Same goes for Johns. Typically, the offense of “soliciting” a prostitute (offering money in exchange for a sexual act), or actually engaging in prostitution (engaging in a sexual act for money), is a misdemeanor offense, assuming the prostitute is an adult, meaning someone who is over the age of 18.

When it comes to the prostitution of minors (individuals under the age of 18), it’s a whole different story. Under 18 U.S.C. § 1591, it is a federal crime to knowingly entice, harbor, or obtain a minor, knowing that he or she would be used to engage in prostitution. In other words, it’s a federal offense to obtain or offer a child for the purposes of the child engaging in a sexual act in exchange for goods or services, including drugs, an in-kind favor, or a personal benefit.

Section 1591 applies to all children in the United States who are prostituted, whether they are American citizens or foreign nationals who are brought to the United States and caused to engage in prostitution. Anyone can be guilty under Sec. 1591 if they attempt or engage in prostitution with a minor, even if the child was not a victim of human sex trafficking.

What Are the Penalties Involved?

Suppose the victim was under the age of 14 and he or she was coerced or forced to engage in prostitution; in this case, the defendant would face between 15 years and life in prison. If the victim was between the ages of 14 and 17, the defendant would be sentenced to 10 years to life in prison. Additionally, defendants who are convicted under Sec. 1591 are required to pay restitution to their young victims.

Under 18 U.S.C. §§ 2421 – 2423, several activities associated with prostituting children are criminalized, such as using the Internet or cellphone to induce, coerce, or otherwise persuade a minor into engaging in illegal sexual activity.

Are you accused of engaging in illegal sexual activity, such as prostitution with a minor? If so, contact our Oakland criminal defense firm at once for help.

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