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I. PC 236.1: Human Trafficking Laws


Legal Definition:

(a) A person who deprives or violates the personal liberty of another with the intent to obtain forced labor or services is guilty of human trafficking. (PC 236.1(a))

(b) A person who deprives or violates the personal liberty of another with the intent to effect or maintain a violation of Section 266, 266h, 266i, 266j, 267, 311.1, 311.2, 311.3, 311.4, 311.5, 311.6, or 518 is guilty of human trafficking. (PC 236.1(b))

(c) A person who causes, induces, persuades, or attempts to cause, induce, or persuade, a person who is a minor at the time of the commission of the offense to engage in a commercial sex act, with the intent to effect or maintain a violation of Section 266, 266h, 266i, 266j, 267, 311.1, 311.2, 311.3, 311.4, 311.5, 311.6, or 518 is guilty of human trafficking.

For a person to be convicted of a violation of PC 236.1, the prosecution must prove the following:

1. You either deprived another person of personal liberty or violated the person’s personal liberty;

2. When you did, you intended to obtain a benefit for sexual services performed by the sex worker (victim).

II. What does this mean?


Sex trafficking usually occurs in strip clubs, brothels, and massage parlors, and is the act of forcing, coercing, or transporting a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act. Labor trafficking is common in sweatshops and homes and requires forcing a person to work for little or no money for their services. Violation of the personal liberty of another means placing a substantial restriction on the liberty of another person.

Forced labor or services, as used here, means labor or services that are performed or provided by a person and are obtained or maintained through force, fraud, duress, coercion, or equivalent conduct that would reasonably overbear the will of the person. Depriving or violating another person’s personal liberty, as used here, includes substantial and sustained restriction of another person’s liberty. 

Duress means a direct or implied threat of force, violence, danger, hardship, or retribution that is enough to cause a reasonable person to do. Violence means using physical force that is greater than the force reasonably necessary to restrain someone. Menace means a verbal or physical threat of harm, including the use of a deadly weapon. Coercion includes any scheme, plan, or pattern intended to cause a person to believe that failing to perform an act would result in (serious harm to or physical restraint against someone else.

III. Penalties


Human trafficking charges are classified as felonies. This means you can never receive a misdemeanor conviction under this section, and it can never be reduced to a misdemeanor after probation. Also, simply because Human Trafficking under PC 236.1 is a felony, does not make you ineligible for a Probation Sentence. The punishment for Human Trafficking can range from probation without jail to life in prison. Some of the common penalties and punishments are listed below:

1. PC 236.1(a): Human trafficking of forced labor can land you in prison for upwards of five, eight, or twelve years. 

2. PC 236.1(b): Human trafficking with intent to commit a sex act conviction, can result in a State Prison Sentence of up to eight, fourteen, or twenty years.

3. PC 236.1(c)(1): Attempting to, persuading, or causing another person to engage in a commercial sex act as a minor, such as pimping or pandering a minor or causing a minor to engage in prostitution conviction can result in a State Prison Sentence of upwards of five, eight or twelve years.

4. PC 236.1(c)(2): Human sex trafficking of a minor by force or violence conviction can send you to State Prison for 15 years to life. Meaning you would be eligible for parole only after serving 15 years of your sentence.

Only section PC 236.1(c)(2) is considered a serious or violent felony, but other sections under PC 236.1 can be considered Strikes under California’s Three Strike Rule. You would also be required to register as a Sex Offender under PC 290. In addition to these punishments, fines and fees are some of the most severe in California outside large fraud cases. If convicted, you could face a fine of up to $500,000.

If you are convicted of PC 236.1, you will likely face a loss, suspension, or revocation of your professional license. You will also face immigration consequences if you are a non-US Citizen living in the United States.

IV. Common Defenses


  1. Statute of Limitations
  2. Insufficient Evidence
  3. Entrapment
  4. Violation of Rights
  5. False Accusations
  6. Coerced Confessions

A major defense is, is to attack that there is insufficient evidence to prove you guilty of the charges. Here, the prosecution must prove that you intended to force another person to provide labor or services. Therefore, if you are able to show that you did not use force or did not intend to receive a benefit from the labor or services, the DA will not be able to prove the human trafficking charge against you. If you run a home that allows people to engage in prostitution, but you do not force people to engage in the act, you would not be guilty under PC 236.1, but you could be found guilty under PC 315.

Another defense here is showing that although prostitution was occurring, it was done so volitionally by the prostitutes, without you. In other words, whether you were involved or not, the people involved were going to be engaging in prostitution. This can be shown through circumstantial evidence that shows the acts were occurring before you were even present, or that you don’t even receive a financial benefit from their activities. Failing to show the acts were not volition, you would succeed by showing there is insufficient evidence to find you guilty of these charges. 

V. Call Today


A conviction under the PC 236.1 case can have a devastating impact on one’s life. In terms of convictions, you are looking at substantial time in State Prison, a strike on your record, Sex registration problems, and the requirement to pay back $500,000 in fines, once you are released from Prison. Our PC 236.1 Ontario attorney has successfully defended numerous cases involving violations of PC 236.1 dealing with Human Trafficking violations. You, or your loved one, cannot chance such a serious charge. The initial consultation is free and we are available to answer your questions 24/7. Call the Inland Empire Criminal Defense today at 909-939-7126! Located in Ontario, CA.

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