Colorado Law re Human and Sex Trafficking

Sex trafficking of an adult or minor in Colorado

Section 18-3-504 C.R.S. (Colorado Revised Statutes) sets forth the felony offense of human trafficking for sexual servitude. 18-3-504 (1)(a) C.R.S. 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 is a separate and distinct offense. 

Penalties for human sex trafficking

Human trafficking for sexual servitude is a class 3 felony. It can be punished by as much as 16 years in prison and a fine of up to $750,000.

Human trafficking of a minor for sexual servitude is a class 2 felony. Consequences of sex trafficking of a minor in Colorado can include up to 48 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine.

Human trafficking is also an offense that requires mandatory registration as a Colorado sex offender.

Defending Colorado sex trafficking charges

Colorado sex trafficking is seldom charged alone. Often it is charged with assault, organized crime, and additional sexual offenses. And when the alleged victim of sex trafficking is a minor, consent by the minor is not a defense to the charges. Additionally, human trafficking violates federal laws, under which it can be punished by life in federal prison.

Accordingly, if you have been charged with sex trafficking, you need the best Colorado criminal attorney you can find -- preferably one with experience defending large, complex criminal cases.

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

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 sex trafficking 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.

2. The meaning of “commercial sexual activity”

As defined by 18-3-504 (3), C.R.S., “commercial sexual activity” means sexual activity for which anything of value is given to, promised to, or received by a person.

For purposes of 18-3-504 C.R.S., "sexual activity: means:

“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 sexual intercourse, sodomy, and sexual 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 sexual 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 you do not need to receive any of the proceeds of the commercial sexual activity in order to violate 18-3-504 C.R.S.A

3. Colorado penalties for human trafficking for sexual servitude

Human trafficking of adults for sexual 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:

Adult victim:

  • 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.

4. Defenses to Colorado sex trafficking charges

It is important to note that in a case of trafficking of 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 prosecution'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 entrapped you or engaged in other misconduct.

5. Related offenses

Human trafficking charges are seldom charged alone. Other crimes that are frequently charged with human trafficking for sexual servitude include:

6. Federal sex trafficking laws

The federal laws of the United States have a number of laws related to human trafficking. 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 of sex trafficking of a minor in federal court, you will spend your entire sentence in prison, less only a small amount of time off, if any, for good behavior.

Call us for help…

Human trafficking charges are some of the most serious you can face in Colorado. If you are accused of sex trafficking or related crimes, the prosecution will devote significant resources toward obtaining a conviction. It is very likely they will overcharge you.

It takes an experienced Colorado criminal defense attorney to fight dozens of charges that carry such a heavy social stigma and long potential prison term.

Our firm has affiliated offices in three states. We have lawyers who have served as cops, prosecutors and public defenders. We understand how complex cases are investigated, put together and prosecuted. Now we use those decades of knowledge to defend you.

You deserve the best Colorado sex trafficking lawyer you can find. We believe that's us. So if you or someone you know has been accused of human trafficking on Colorado and/or federal charges, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. We will listen to your side of the story and work with you on how best to present it to the prosecutor and, if necessary, the judge and jury.

Our attorneys can help with bail and release issues at all Colorado jails, including the Fremont County Jail.

You can reach us confidentially by completing the form on this page, or call us at our conveniently located Denver home office:

Colorado Legal Defense Group
4047 Tejon Street
Denver, CO 80211
(303) 222-0330

Arrested in California? Learn about California laws for human trafficking (Penal Code 236.1 PC). Arrested in Nevada? See our article on Nevada human trafficking laws (NRS 200.467 & NRS 200.468).

Legal resources:

  1. 18-3-504 (2)(a) C.R.S.
  2. “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.18-3-401(4), C.R.S.
  3. “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.18-3-401(5) C.R.S.
  4. “Sexual penetration” means sexual intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio, analingus, or anal intercourse. Emission need not be proved as an element of any sexual penetration. Any penetration, however slight, is sufficient to complete the crime.18-3-401(6) C.R.S.
  5. 18-6-403(3)(a) and (d) C.R.S.
  6. 18-7-101 C.R.S.
  7. 18-7-101 (2), C.R.S.




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