Sex trafficking of an adult or minor in Colorado
Section 18-3-504 CRS (Colorado Revised Statutes) sets forth the felony offense of human trafficking for sexual servitude. CRS 18-3-504 (1)(a) provides:
A person who knowingly sells, recruits, harbors, transports, transfers, isolates, entices, provides, receives, or obtains by any means another person for the purpose of coercing the person to engage in commercial sexual activity commits human trafficking for sexual servitude.
If the victim is under 18 years of age, the offense is known as human trafficking of a minor for sexual servitude.1
Note that human trafficking for involuntary servitude (labor trafficking) is a separate and distinct offense.
People who traffic adults for sex servitude face a class 3 felony. It can be punished by as much as 16 years in prison and a fine of up to $750,000.
People who traffic a minor for sexual servitude is a class 2 felony. Consequences can include up to 48 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine.
Violating CRS 18-3-504 is also an offense that requires mandatory registration as a Colorado sex offender.
Alleged traffickers usually face multiple charges, including assault, organized crime, and additional sex offenses. And when the alleged victim of sex trafficking is a minor, consent by the minor is not a defense to the charges. Additionally, violating CRS 18-3-504 also violates federal laws, under which it can be punished by life in federal prison.
To help you better understand Colorado’s law against human sex trafficking, our Colorado sex crimes lawyers discuss the following, below:
- 1. The problem of sex trafficking in Colorado
- 2. What is “commercial sexual activity”?
- 3. What are the penalties?
- 4. What are the defenses?
- 5. Related offenses
- 6. Federal sex trafficking laws
Colorado has a huge problem in the area of forced labor, especially forced or coerced participation in the illegal sex trade. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center reports that in the first half of 2016, they received 53 reports of victims of human trafficking for sex in addition to dozens of calls related to forced labor in areas other than sex.
2016 also saw a Colorado grand jury indict seven people on accusations of running a Denver-based sex trafficking ring. The indictments covered 59 counts, including organized crime, kidnapping, keeping a place of child prostitution, pimping of a child, soliciting for child prostitution, assault with a deadly weapon, and beating, giving drugs to, and sexually assaulting the victims.
In another case, a man was charged with human trafficking of a minor, soliciting prostitution of a child and attempted sex assault of a child after he tried to buy a 7-year-old boy from an undercover federal agent.
As defined by CRS 18-3-504 (3), “commercial sexual activity” means sex acts for which anything of value is given to, promised to, or received by a person.
For purposes of CRS 18-3-504, sexual activity: means:
- carnal contact,2
- Sexual exploitation of a child,5 or
- An obscene performance.6
“Performance” means a play, motion picture, dance, or other exhibition performed before an audience. It is considered obscene if:
- The average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that taken as a whole appeals to the prurient interest in sex; or
- It depicts or describes:
- Patently offensive representations or descriptions of ultimate sex acts, normal or perverted, actual or simulated, including intercourse, sodomy, and bestiality; or
- Patently offensive representations or descriptions of masturbation, excretory functions, sadism, masochism, lewd exhibition of the genitals, the male or female genitals in a state of stimulation or arousal, or covered male genitals in a discernibly turgid state; and
- Taken as a whole, it lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.7
Note that human traffickers do not need to receive any of the proceeds of the commercial carnal activity in order to violate CRS 18-3-504.
Human trafficking victims of adult age for carnal servitude is a Colorado class 3 felony. Human trafficking of a minor under 18 for sexual servitude is a class 2 felony.
These are also Colorado “extraordinary risk” crimes that add to the maximum possible sentence you can be given. As a result, penalties for Colorado sex trafficking can include:
- 4-16 years in prison, and/or
- A fine of $3,000-$750,000.
Victim under 18:
- 16-48 years in prison, and/or
- A fine of $5,000-$1,000,000.
A conviction on sex trafficking charges will also require you to register as a Colorado sex offender.
It is important to note that in a case of CRS 18-3-504 violations with a minor child, it is NOT a defense that the minor consented to the commercial sexual activity. It is also not a defense that:
- You did not know the minor’s age,
- You reasonably believed the minor to be eighteen years of age or older, or
- The minor or another person represented the minor to be eighteen years of age or older.
Rather, defending a charge of sex trafficking is more a matter of poking holes in the district attorney’s case by showing that:
- The alleged victim was at least 18,
- You didn’t knowingly sell, recruit, harbor, transport or isolate another person,
- You didn’t do any of these things for the purpose of coercing anyone into engaging in commercial sexual activity,
- The person wasn’t engaged in commercial sexual activity, or
- The police officers entrapped you or engaged in other law enforcement misconduct.
CRS 18-3-504 cases usually involve more than one charge under state law. Other crimes that are frequently charged with CRS 18-3-504 (1)(a) for sexual servitude include:
- Sexual exploitation of a child (CRS 18–6–403),
- Procurement of a child for sexual exploitation (CRS 18–6–404),
- Harboring a minor (CRS 18-6-601),
- Contributing to the delinquency of a minor (CRS 18-6-701),
- Sexual assault (CRS 18-3-402),
- Sexual assault on a child (CRS 18-3-405),
- Kidnapping (CRS 18-3-301 and 302),
- False imprisonment,
- Keeping a place of child prostitution,
- Pimping of a child,
- Soliciting for child prostitution,
- Organized crime,
- Pimping (CRS 18-7-206),
- Sexual exploitation of children (CRS 18-6-403),
- Child abuse (CRS 18-6-401).
The federal laws of the United States have a number of statutes related to human trafficking cases. Of these, the most serious is 18 U.S. Code 1591 – sex trafficking of children or by force, fraud, or coercion.
The penalty for sex trafficking of a child under 18 U.S.C. 1591 is a large fine and a federal prison sentence of:
- 15 years-life in prison if:
- The offense was effected by means of force, threats of force, fraud, or coercion, or
- The alleged victim was under the age of 14.
- Otherwise, 10 years- life.
There is no parole in the federal prison system. This means if you are convicted in federal court, you will spend your entire sentence in prison, less only a small amount of time off, if any, for good behavior.
Colorado Legal Defense Group
4047 Tejon Street
Denver, CO 80211
Arrested in California? Learn about California laws under Penal Code 236.1 PC).
Arrested in Nevada? See our article on Nevada laws under NRS 200.467 & NRS 200.468).
Helpful Links for victims in sex trafficking cases:
- Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance
- The National Human Trafficking Hotline
- Colorado Human Trafficking Council
- National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC)
- Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking
- FBI’s Innocence Lost Task Force
- Colorado Department of Human Services Child Welfare
- CRS 18-3-504 (2)(a).
- “Sexual contact” means the knowing touching of the victim’s intimate parts by the actor, or of the actor’s intimate parts by the victim, or the knowing touching of the clothing covering the immediate area of the victim’s or actor’s intimate parts if that sexual contact is for the purposes of sexual arousal, gratification, or abuse. CRS 18-3-401(4).
- “Sexual intrusion” means any intrusion, however slight, by any object or any part of a person’s body, except the mouth, tongue, or penis, into the genital or anal opening of another person’s body if that sexual intrusion can reasonably be construed as being for the purposes of sexual arousal, gratification, or abuse. CRS 18-3-401(5).
- “Sexual penetration” means intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio, analingus, or anal intercourse. Emission need not be proved as an element of any penetration. Any penetration, however slight, is sufficient to complete the crime. CRS 18-3-401(6).
- CRS 18-6-403(3)(a) and (d).
- CRS 18-7-101.
- CRS 18-7-101 (2).