Jeffrey Epstein—billionaire financier, philanthropist, and friend to such high-profile figures as Bill Clinton, Stephen Hawking, and Donald Trump—was recently indicted for federal sex trafficking.
The charges allege that Epstein “sexually exploited and abused dozens of minor girls at his homes” in Manhattan, Palm Beach and other locations.
Some of the girls were reportedly as young as 14.
Additional charges detail that Epstein paid some of his victims to recruit more minor victims.
He is currently being held without bail, although he is in the process of appealing the decision.
If convicted, he could face up to 45 years in prison.
Human Sex Trafficking is a Priority for Lawmakers
While Epstein’s high-profile case is exceptional, federal human trafficking charges are not—and as combating the sex trafficking trade grows in priority for lawmakers, we imagine prosecution on any related activities will in turn increase.
Anyone involved in the sex trade, legally or otherwise, should be aware of what federal sex trafficking charges are and when you could be charged, as well as the consequences you could face upon conviction.
Most importantly, we look at how you can fight back if you wind up on the wrong side of the law as Epstein has.
State or Federal Sex Trafficking Charges?
If a sex crime violates both state and federal legislation (sex trafficking does), it may be prosecuted at either the state or federal level, and sometimes both. This is left to the discretion of the federal and state prosecutors involved.
Generally, the following circumstances make federal prosecution more likely:
- The offense somehow crosses state or international borders
- The crime was committed against minors, particularly children under the age of 14
- Aggravating factors are present
- The crime involved the use of the Internet
In Epstein’s case, all four red flags shot up.
One thing is certain: federal prosecution is never good news. Federal investigative agencies like the FBI have far greater resources than local law enforcement to investigate a criminal offense, so the case against you will be much stronger.
Federal charges are also subject to strictly enforced mandatory minimum sentencing, and prosecutors are much more likely to seek the maximum possible sentence.
If you’re convicted, federal prison sentences are ineligible for parole, too. This means that you will be serving the entirety of your sentence behind bars.
Federal Sex Trafficking Sentencing
Human trafficking can carry a prison term between five and 20 years per count. If aggravating factors are present, however, your term may be enhanced to life imprisonment. At best, your mandatory minimums increase by 15 years.
- Aggravating factors include:
- Trafficking of a child
- Sexual abuse
- The act of trafficking results in the death of another
- Sex trafficking by fraud, force or coercion
Importantly, these penalties apply for each count of sex trafficking. If the case allegedly involves multiple victims, defendants face a separate sentence (and enhancement) for every count.
Additionally, in many cases, these sentences cannot be served concurrently.
Additional Punitive Measures for Federal Sex Crimes
Federal sex crime offenders are often required to serve their sentences in the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. The Bureau has facilities set up to treat terminally ill, mentally ill, and sex offenders.
Sex offenders are also required to enroll in the Residential Sex Offender Treatment Program or the Sex Offender Management Program. These treatment programs are intensive and participation is mandatory.
If convicted of federal sex trafficking, you will be required to register nationally as a sex offender. The details of your case, as well as personal information such as your address and employer, will be accessible online via national database.
Sex offender registration also restricts housing and employment prospects. You may be prohibited from living in certain locations, or from interacting with the type of person you offended against.
For example, if you are convicted of child sex trafficking, you would likely be prohibited from living near, and working or interacting with children.
Federal Sex Trafficking Defenses
Clearly, federal human trafficking charges are quite serious. A conviction can be life-changing in many ways. However, if you’re facing charges, all hope is not lost. In fact, there are many defense strategies, and developing the right one will depend on your specific circumstances.
Your sex trafficking defense attorney will craft the best possible defense for your case. Common strategies include:
- Lack of knowledge
- Insufficient evidence
- No financial gain or illegal purpose
- Police misconduct, such as entrapment, illegal search or seizure, and coerced confession
Whatever your circumstances, don’t face these charges alone. If you’re on the block for federal charges of sex trafficking or other sex crimes, you have many available options to fight back. A charge does not equate to a conviction.
It is, however, important to take action as soon as possible to fight back aggressively against charges of this kind.