Prop 35 and enhanced penalties for California human trafficking

Posted by Neil Shouse | Apr 07, 2014 | 0 Comments

In November of 2012, over 80% of California voters voted for Proposition 35--an initiative that greatly increased fines and prison sentences for California human trafficking under Penal Code 236.1 PC.

Among other things, Prop 35

  • introduced a possible life sentence for defendants convicted of sex trafficking of a minor through force or fraud (the previous maximum sentence had been 8 years),
  • greatly increased fines for human trafficking convictions, and
  • required all convicted sex traffickers to register as sex offenders.

The landslide victory for Prop 35 can probably be chalked up to the terrible stigma that the crime of "human trafficking" carries in our society. But in fact, many commentators (including the Los Angeles Times editorial page) felt strongly that the new law was deeply flawed.

For one thing, by increasing the criminal fines that convicted traffickers have to pay to the state, the law reduces the amount of money the defendants might have left to compensate their victims (who have the right to receive damages awards through civil lawsuits).

Some people also noted that the new sentencing scheme is unfair to victims of nonsexual forced labor--because it imposes much harsher penalties for trafficking for sexual purposes.

Regardless of whether Prop 35 is a good law or not--it is now the law of the land in California. And it makes a conviction for human trafficking under Penal Code 236.1 PC an extremely serious matter.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.


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