Sex Trafficking Laws in Illinois: What You Should Know
Sex trafficking is a growing problem nationwide, and Illinois has some of the highest sex trafficking rates in the country. Accordingly, sex trafficking is a major priority for law enforcement, and sex trafficking charges are increasing.
In fact, the enhanced efforts to eliminate sex trafficking may even lead to overzealous policing, and result in innocent people being charged.
Those working in positions — legal and otherwise — that could possibly be affected by Illinois state sex trafficking laws would do well to understand how Illinois defines sex trafficking, the penalties associated with a conviction.
Most importantly, you’re going to want to know how to fight back if you’re facing sex trafficking charges.
Illinois Sex Trafficking Defined
Illinois sex trafficking is defined as intentionally enticing, harboring, providing transport, recruiting or obtaining through any other means a person for sexual servitude. Any attempts to commit these acts are also considered sex trafficking.
Importantly, the victim does not actually need to be transported for the offense to constitute sex trafficking.
Even if the victim stays in the same location, any means of subjecting the victim to sexual servitude are still considered sex trafficking.
Illinois Sex Trafficking Sentencing and Penalties
In Illinois, sex trafficking is considered a Class 1 felony, which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. However, the presence of aggravating factors can elevate this charge to a Class X felony, the most serious felony charge other than first-degree murder.
Common Aggravating Factors
Aggravating factors for sex trafficking include:
- Kidnapping or attempted kidnapping of the victim
- Aggravated sexual assault, or an attempt to commit this offense
- First-degree murder attempt
A Class X felony doubles your maximum jail sentence to 30 years, with potential sentencing enhancements to life imprisonment.
Less-Severe Aggravating Factors
Other less-severe aggravating factors, such as inflicting bodily injury on the victim, may also enhance sentencing. Additionally, prosecutors will consider how long the victim has been held.
When the defendant holds the victim for longer than 180 days, the judge may tack additional time onto the sentence.
Enhancement for Multiple Victims
Further, when a case involves more than 10 victims, the penalties for sex trafficking increase significantly. In this situation, defendants are also likely to face multiple counts of sex trafficking.
Additional Civil Penalties
In addition to the criminal penalties one faces upon conviction, sex trafficking is also punishable by severe civil penalties. If convicted, you will be forced to pay the following:
- Restitution for the victim’s labor in accordance with minimum wage and overtime laws, or the income for the victim’s services, whichever is greater.
- A fine payable to the Specialized Services of Human Trafficking Fund. The amount is left to the discretion of the courts, and generally reflects the severity of the offense.
Under Illinois law, the courts also have the right to seize the defendant’s assets in order to pay any outstanding fines and restitution.
Defending Yourself against Illinois Sex Trafficking Charges
Clearly, the consequences of a sex trafficking conviction are severe. However, if you’re charged with sex trafficking, there are a number of defense strategies that could win you an acquittal at trial, or even get your case dismissed.
Every scenario is different, and a Chicago criminal defense attorney will evaluate the specifics of your case to develop the best possible defense. Common sex trafficking defenses include:
- Lack of knowledge
- Lack of intent
- Mistaken identity
- Mental incapacitation
- Non-sufficient evidence
- Illegal search and seizure or police misconduct
- Coercion or duress
Ultimately, while sex trafficking is a major priority for Illinois lawmakers, overzealous policing isn’t an excuse for wrongful prosecution.
If you get caught up, your best chance at a positive outcome is to understand the laws surrounding sex trafficking so you can fight back.
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.