The United States Department of Justice Department of Justice SealF The United States Department of Justice
Search The Site
 

INVOLUNTARY SERVITUDE, FORCED LABOR, and SEX TRAFFICKING STATUTES ENFORCED

A number of provisions in the U.S. Code target trafficking in persons, also known as involuntary servitude/slavery or forced labor. These provisions are contained in Chapter 77 of Title 18 and are sometimes referred to generally as Chapter 77 offenses. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 supplemented existing laws, primarily 18 U.S.C. § 1584 (Involuntary Servitude), and also provided new tools to combat trafficking. Key statutes are excerpted below.

Peonage

Summary: Section 1581 of Title 18 makes it unlawful to hold a person in "debt servitude," or peonage, which is closely related to involuntary servitude. Section 1581 prohibits using force, the threat of force, or the threat of legal coercion to compel a person to work against his/her will. In addition, the victim's involuntary servitude must be tied to the payment of a debt.

18 U.S.C. § 1581

(a) Whoever holds or returns any person to a condition of peonage, or arrests any person with the intent of placing him in or returning him to a condition of peonage, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both. If death results from the violation of this section, or if the violation includes kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, the defendant shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for any term of years or life, or both.

(b) Whoever obstructs, or attempts to obstruct, or in any way interferes with or prevents the enforcement of this section, shall be liable to the penalties prescribed in subsection (a).


Involuntary Servitude

Summary: Section 1584 of Title 18 makes it unlawful to hold a person in a condition of slavery, that is, a condition of compulsory service or labor against his/her will. A Section 1584 conviction requires that the victim be held against his/her will by actual force, threats of force, or threats of legal coercion. Section 1584 also prohibits compelling a person to work against his/her will by creating a "climate of fear" through the use of force, the threat of force, or the threat of legal coercion [i.e., If you don't work, I'll call the immigration officials.] which is sufficient to compel service against a person's will.

18 U.S.C. § 1584

    Whoever knowingly and willfully holds to involuntary servitude or sells into any condition of involuntary servitude, any other person for any term, or brings within the United States any person so held, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both. If death results from the violation of this section, or if the violation includes kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or the attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, the defendant shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for any term of years or life, or both.


Forced Labor

    Summary: Section 1589 of Title 18, which was passed as part of the TVPA, makes it unlawful to provide or obtain the labor or services of a person through one of three prohibited means. Congress enacted § 1589 in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Kozminski, 487 U.S. 931 (1988), which interpreted § 1584 to require the use or threatened use of physical or legal coercion. Section 1589 broadens the definition of the kinds of coercion that might result in forced labor.

18 U.S.C. § 1589

Whoever knowingly provides or obtains the labor or services of a person--

(1) by threats of serious harm to, or physical restraint against, that person or another person;

(2) by means of any scheme, plan, or pattern intended to cause the person to believe that, if the person did not perform such labor or services, that person or another person would suffer serious harm or physical restraint; or

(3) by means of the abuse or threatened abuse of law or the legal process,

shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both. If death results from the violation of this section, or if the violation includes kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or the attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, the defendant shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for any term of years or life, or both.


 

Trafficking with Respect to Peonage, Slavery, Involuntary Servitude, or Forced Labor

Summary: Section 1590 makes it unlawful to recruit, harbor, transport, or broker persons for labor or services under conditions which violate any of the offenses contained in Chapter 77 of Title 18.

18 U.S.C. § 1590

Whoever knowingly recruits, harbors, transports, provides, or obtains by any means, any person for labor or services in violation of this chapter shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both. If death results from the violation of this section, or if the violation includes kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse, or the attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, the defendant shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for any term of years or life, or both.


 

Sex Trafficking of Children or by Force, Fraud, or Coercion

Summary: Section 1591 criminalizes sex trafficking, which is defined as causing a person to engage in a commercial sex act under certain statutorily enumerated conditions. A commercial sex act means any sex act, on account of which anything of value is given to or received by any person. The specific conditions are the use of force, fraud, or coercion, or conduct involving persons under the age of 18. The punishment for conduct that either involves a victim who is under the age of 14 or involves force, fraud, or coercion is any term of years or life. The punishment for conduct that involves a victim between the ages of 14 and 18 is 40 years.

18 U.S.C. § 1591

Whoever knowingly--

(1) in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, or within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, recruits, entices, harbors, transports, provides, or obtains by any means a person; or

(2) benefits, financially or by receiving anything of value, from participation in a venture which has engaged in an act described in violation of paragraph (1), knowing that force, fraud, or coercion described in subsection (c)(2) will be used to cause the person to engage in a commercial sex act, or that the person has not attained the age of 18 years and will be caused to engage in a commercial sex act, shall be punished as provided in subsection (b).


 

Unlawful Conduct with Respect to Documents in Furtherance of Trafficking, Peonage, Slavery, Involuntary Servitude, or Forced Labor

Summary: Section 1592 makes it illegal to seize documents in order to force others to work. By expanding its coverage to false documents as well as official documents, § 1592 recognizes that victims are often immobilized by the withholding of whatever documents they possess, even if the documents are forged or fraudulent. Section 1592 expands the scope of federal trafficking statutes to reach those who prey on the vulnerabilities of immigrant victims by controlling their papers.

18 U.S.C. § 1592

(a) Whoever knowingly destroys, conceals, removes, confiscates, or possesses any actual or purported passport or other immigration document, or any other actual or purported government identification document, of another person--

(1) in the course of a violation of section 1581, 1583, 1584, 1589, 1590, 1591, or 1594(a);

(2) with intent to violate section 1581, 1583, 1584, 1589, 1590, or 1591; or

(3) to prevent or restrict or to attempt to prevent or restrict, without lawful authority, the person's liberty to move or travel, in order to maintain the labor or services of that person, when the person is or has been a victim of a severe form of trafficking in persons, as defined in section 103 of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than 5 years, or both.

(b) Subsection (a) does not apply to the conduct of a person who is or has been a victim of a severe form of trafficking in persons, as defined in section 103 of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, if that conduct is caused by, or incident to, that trafficking.


 

Additional provisions of the TVPA provide for mandatory restitution (18 U.S.C. § 1593) and forfeiture (18 U.S.C. § 1594(b)), criminalize attempt (18 U.S.C. § 1594(a)), and give victims an avenue for civil lawsuits (18 U.S.C. § 1595).

Return to the Criminal Section Home Page

General Information Criminal Section
 
Leadership
Robert Moossy
Chief
Contact

(202) 514-3204
FAX - (202) 514-8336
Stay Connected YouTube MySpace Twitter Facebook Sign Up for E-Mail Updates Subscribe to News Feeds