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Is Human Trafficking a State or Federal Offense?


Human trafficking occurs when a person abducts another individual by force or coercion to make them to perform labor or sexual acts. This offense is both a state and federal crime that is fiercely prosecuted and harshly punished.

According to the Human Trafficking Hotline, over 5,100 human trafficking cases were reported in 2018 nationwide. Of those, 64 occurred in Wisconsin. The cases happened in various urban and rural areas of the state, and offenses were committed against people of all ages.

State Laws Prohibiting Human Trafficking

Wisconsin has two separate laws that make it illegal to knowingly entice an adult or child to engage in sexual conduct or labor.

Under Wis. Stat. 940.302, trafficking is defined as harboring, recruiting, enticing, or obtaining an individual. The attempt to do any of those acts is also considered trafficking under this statute. If a person traffics another individual to make them perform labor or services or engage in sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or a sexually explicit performance, they might violate this law.

The person accused of human trafficking must also have abducted the individual using various tactics, including:

  • Causing or threatening to physically injure the person
  • Causing or threatening to harm the person financially
  • Restraining or threatening to restrain the person
  • Breaking or threatening to break a law
  • Using or threatening to use violence on the person

An individual could be charged with violating this law either by directly participating in or benefitting from the offense. A person who knowingly traffics another individual, or who personally benefits in any way from the offense, could be guilty of a Class D felony. If a person receives any compensation from acts performed as a result of trafficking, they could be charged with a Class F felony. A conviction could be penalized by years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.

Under Wis. State. 948.051, it is also illegal to traffic a child for the purposes of having them perform sexual acts. The person who commits the offense, and anyone who knowingly benefits from it, could be charged with a Class C felony. If convicted, they could spend up to 40 years in prison and face up to $100,000 in fines.

Federal Laws Prohibiting Human Trafficking

Under federal law, it is illegal for a person to use force or coercion for the purposes of recruiting, harboring, or transporting that person and making them perform commercial sex acts or subjecting them to involuntary servitude. Violators of this law could be sentenced to federal prison for up to 20 years. If aggravating factors were involved or the victim was a child, the accused could face life imprisonment.

Call Today for a Free Consultation with the Law Offices of Christopher J. Cherella

Our attorney has over 25 years of experience in the criminal justice field and knows what it takes to win cases. If you were accused of a felony or federal offense, such as human trafficking, contact us for skilled legal counsel. We will thoroughly review your case and explore all avenues of defense to work toward getting charges reduced or dismissed.

To discuss your case with our attorney, call us at (414) 882-8382 or contact us online.

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