The Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog

Prop. 35: Increases Sex and Labor Trafficking Penalties - Part I

Proposition 35 is well-intentioned. No one can credibly deny that. If it passes, it will increase penalties for labor trafficking and add penalties for trafficking in the sex trade, especially in regards to minors. It also requires those convicted of sex trafficking to register as sex offenders. And really, who could possibly object to increasing penalties for pimps of underage prostitutes?

What it Changes

Under existing state law, labor trafficking is already illegal. Typically, this is where someone is coerced into providing labor without pay under duress, such as the abduction of an illegal immigrant and coercion with threats of deportation. Prop. 35 increases the potential punishment from five years in prison to twelve.

Other changes involve sex trafficking. One change is that Prop. 35 will increase the penalty for forced sex trafficking of an adult from five to twenty years.

The most significant change, however, is the penalties for sex trafficking of a minor. Currently, there is no law that explicitly prohibits such conduct, though arguably there are a number of laws involving prostitution, promoting prostitution, and child sex abuse that do address the issue. There are also applicable federal laws.

Sex trafficking of a minor without force would be punishable by up to twelve years in prison. If force is used, the current penalty of eight years could be increased to a life sentence. The current fine is an amount of up to $100,000. The proposed fine would be up to $1.5 million.

It also requires sex traffickers to register as sex offenders. This means their online activities and physical location will be tracked by law enforcement.


It protects the children. One might be able to debate the merits of forbidding prostitution. But really, can we argue against punishing those who traffic minors for the purposes of engaging in illegal sexual activity?

This law takes conduct that is currently covered by a patchwork of California and federal laws and replaces it with a comprehensive statute that punishes some of the most reprehensible conduct one can imagine with a strong enough punishment to deter the activity.

Instead of hoping that the federal authorities have the resources to do in-depth investigations in our state, Prop. 35 empowers local departments to fight these predators. It not only increases penalties, but also requires local officers to be trained on the law and provides funding through the increased fines.

The law also allows police to monitor the activities of those convicted of sex trafficking to prevent them from using the Internet to recruit more children and recidivate. As the net becomes more ubiquitous in our lives, it has also become the primary method of grooming and recruiting child victims. The registration requirement hopefully will inhibit repeat offenders.

Sounds great right? As always, there are pros and cons to any law. Later this week, we'll address some of the counterarguments, including the cost of enforcement, the necessity of an arguably redundant law, and potential problems with the sex offender registration requirement.

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