Human Trafficking in Illinois — It Isn’t Always About Sex
When many people think of human trafficking, they automatically think of sex trafficking. While it is true that sex trafficking is a big problem, human trafficking isn’t always about sex, sometimes it’s about labor.
Recently, a woman in the Chicago suburbs pled guilty to labor trafficking. She helped several people from Central America to enter the country, but once they were there, they had to stay and work in her home until the debt to get them here was paid.
When human trafficking occurs, victims lose the chance to pursue the possibilities their lives promise, which is why it’s taken so seriously. Here’s what you need to know about human trafficking in Illinois – what it is and what penalties you can face if found guilty.
Human Trafficking Defined
Human trafficking is defined as the use of fraud, coercion, or force to obtain some type of commercial sex act or labor from a person. Traffickers use different tactics to lure in victims and force them into exploitation.
There are two main types of human trafficking: sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Sex trafficking is considered under the law in Illinois to be any sex act in exchange for something of value, such as money, clothing, drugs, food, or shelter.
Labor trafficking is the exploitation of someone for services or labor through force, coercion, or fraud. Often, labor trafficking victims are forced to perform domestic servant duties, restaurant work, factory work, or agricultural work.
Where Human Trafficking Occurs in Illinois
Sex and labor trafficking happen in various places across the state. It’s common to find those forced into sex trafficking in hotel commercial sex setups, escort services, online ads, and massage businesses.
For labor trafficking, most victims are found doing domestic work, working in traveling sales crews, or in begging rings across the state.
Those who traffic humans run the gamut. Family members, significant others, peers, pimps, and those who prey upon those who are financially and emotionally vulnerable, such as illegal immigrants or children in foster care.
They emotionally manipulate and fool the victims with promises of providing their basic needs for them but not allowing them the freedom to leave.
Penalties for Human Trafficking in Illinois
Human trafficking is often charged as a Class 1 felony. This can put someone behind bars in state prison for up to 15 years if found guilty. However, there are aggravating factors that can play a role.
If the victims have been kidnapped, sexual assault has been perpetrated, or first-degree murder attempted in the process of human trafficking, then it is a Class X felony in Illinois. That can double the prison sentence of someone found guilty.
You can also be charged with a Class X felony if there was any bodily injury to the victim, the victim was held for longer than six months, or there were more than 10 victims.
Those found guilty may also be required to pay the victims restitution. This is generally the amount of money the victim would have been paid for their labor.
The total often includes amounts consistent with minimum wage laws as well as overtime laws or the gross income of the services provided by the victim – whichever amount is greater.
Human trafficking is a serious charge and is treated very seriously in Illinois. If you are charged with this crime, it’s important to understand the charges against you as well as your own rights.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, murder, and drug crimes. His work has been recognized by Avvo, Expertise, National Trial Lawyers, and others, and he has been featured on countless news outlets for his experience and knowledge in criminal law.