Statutes Enforced by the Criminal Section

U.S. Code Provision

Name

 

     Explanation

 

                                                                                                

CIVIL RIGHTS CONSPIRACY
 

18 U.S.C. § 241

Conspiracy Against Rights

Section 241 makes it unlawful for two or more persons to agree to injure, threaten, or intimidate a person in the United States in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured by the Constitution or laws of the Unites States or because of his or her having exercised such a right.

Unlike most conspiracy statutes, §241 does not require, as an element, the commission of an overt act.

The offense is always a felony, even if the underlying conduct would not, on its own, establish a felony violation of another criminal civil rights statute.  It is punishable by up to ten years imprisonment unless the government proves an aggravating factor (such as that the offense involved kidnapping aggravated sexual abuse, or resulted in death) in which case it may be punished by up to life imprisonment and, if death results, may be eligible for the death penalty.

Section 241 is used in Law Enforcement Misconduct and Hate Crime Prosecutions. It was historically used, before conspiracy-specific trafficking statutes were adopted, in Human Trafficking prosecutions.

 

LAW ENFORCEMENT MISCONDUCT
 

 18 U.S.C. § 242

Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law

This provision makes it a crime for someone acting under color of law to willfully deprive a person of a right or privilege protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States. It is not necessary that the offense be motivated by racial bias or by any other animus.

Defendants act under color of law when they wield power vested by a government entity.  Those prosecuted under the statute typically include police officers, sheriff’s deputies, and prison guards.  However other government actors, such as judges, district attorneys, and other public officials, can also act under color of law and can be prosecuted under this statute.

Section 242 does not criminalize any particular type of abusive conduct.  Instead, it incorporates by reference rights defined by the Constitution, federal statutes, and interpretive case law.  Cases charged by federal prosecutors most often involve physical or sexual assaults.  The Department has also prosecuted public officials for thefts, false arrests, evidence-planting, and failing to protect someone in custody from constitutional violations committed by others. 

A violation of the statute is a misdemeanor, unless prosecutors prove one of the statutory aggravating factors such as a bodily injury, use of a dangerous weapon, kidnapping, aggravated sexual abuse, death resulting, or attempt to kill, in which case there are graduated penalties up to and including life in prison or death. 

 

HATE (BIAS-MOTIVATED) CRIMES

 

18 U.S.C. § 249

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act

Section 249 prohibits willfully causing bodily injury, or attempting to cause bodily injury with a dangerous weapon, when the crime was committed because of

  1.  the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin of any person;
  2.  the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of any person and the crime affected interstate or foreign commerce (ICC); or
  3.  any of these characteristics (actual or perceived) if the crime occurred within federal special maritime and territorial jurisdiction (SMTJ).
     

There is no need to prove ICC or SMTJ for the first subsection because jurisdiction for enactment is based upon the Thirteenth Amendment.  For this reason, only those religions and national origins considered to be “races” at the time the Thirteenth Amendment was enacted may be prosecuted without proof of ICC or SMTJ.  See § 249, Findings, § (8).

 A conviction carries a statutory maximum of ten years imprisonment; if death results, or if the defendant’s actions include aggravating factors such as kidnapping, sexual abuse, or death resulting from the offense, the offense may be punishable by imprisonment for any term of years or for life. 

A prosecution may not be undertaken without written certification from the AG, or his designee, that (1) the state does not have jurisdiction, (2) the state has requested that the federal government assume jurisdiction, (3) the verdict or sentence obtained by the state left the federal interest demonstrably un-vindicated, or (4) prosecution is in the public interest and necessary to secure substantial justice.
 

18 U.S.C. § 247

Damage to Religious Real  Property (sometimes called the

“Church Arson Prevention Act”)

Section 247 prohibits intentionally defacing, damaging or destroying religious real property because of the religious nature of the property, so long as the crime is committed in or affects interstate or foreign commerce (ICC).

The statute also prohibits anyone from intentionally obstructing or attempting to obstruct, by force or threat of force, a person in the enjoyment of that person's religious beliefs, where the crime is in or affecting ICC.

Finally, the statute prohibits anyone from intentionally defacing, damaging or destroying any religious real property because of the race, color, or ethnic characteristics of any individual associated with the property, regardless of any connection to ICC.

 Section 247 also prohibits attempts to do any of the above.

A violation of the statute is a misdemeanor unless prosecutors prove one of the statutory aggravating factors such as a bodily injury, use of a dangerous weapon, kidnapping , aggravated sexual abuse , death resulting from the offense, or attempt to kill, in which case there are graduated penalties up to and including life in prison or death. 

A prosecution may not be undertaken without written certification from the AG, or his designee, that prosecution is in the public interest and necessary to secure substantial justice.

 

18 U.S.C. § 245(b)(2)

Federally Protected Activities

Subsection (b)(2) of § 245, which is primarily enforced by the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division, makes it unlawful to willfully injure, intimidate or interfere with any person --or to attempt to do so -- by force or threat of force, because of that other person's race, color, religion or national origin and because of the person has been doing one of the following:

  • Enrolling in or attending public school or college
  • Participating In or enjoying a service, privilege, program, facility or activity provided or administered by a state or local government
  • Applying for or enjoying private or state employment
  • Serving as a grand or petit juror in state court (or going to court in preparation to do so)
  • Traveling or using a facility of interstate commerce or common carrier.
  • Patronizing a place of public accommodation or place of exhibition or entertainment, including hotels, motels, restaurants, lunchrooms, bars, gas stations, theaters, concert halls, sports arenas or stadiums.
     

This statute also prohibits willful interference, by force or threat of force, with a person because he/she is or was participating in, or aiding or encouraging other persons to participate in, any of the benefits or activities listed above – or in any of the federal benefits (such as the right to vote or seek federal employment) listed in § 245(b)(1) of the statute -- without discrimination as to race, color, religion, or national origin.

A violation of the statute is a misdemeanor unless prosecutors prove one of the statutory aggravating factors such as a bodily injury, use of a dangerous weapon, kidnapping , aggravated sexual abuse, death resulting from the offense, or attempt to kill, in which case there are graduated penalties up to and including life in prison or death.

A prosecution may not be undertaken without written certification from the AG, or an AAG to whom the AG has specifically delegated the power, that prosecution is in the public interest and necessary to secure substantial justice.

 

42 U.S.C. § 3631

Criminal Interference with Right to Fair Housing

Section 3631 makes it unlawful for an individual to use force or threaten to use force to injure, intimidate, or interfere with, or attempt to injure, intimidate, or interfere with, any person's housing rights because of that person's race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin.

 Among those housing rights enumerated in the statute are: 1) the sale, purchase, or rental of a dwelling, 2) the occupation of dwelling, 3) the financing of a dwelling, 4) contracting or negotiating for any of the rights enumerated above, and 5) applying for or participating in any service, organizations, or facility relating to the sale or rental of dwellings.

This statute also makes it unlawful to use force or threaten to use force to injure, intimidate, or interfere with any person who is assisting an individual or class of persons in the exercise of their housing rights.

A violation of the statute is a misdemeanor unless prosecutors prove one of the statutory aggravating factors such as a bodily injury, use of a dangerous weapon, kidnapping, aggravated sexual abuse, death resulting, or attempt to kill, in which case there are graduated penalties up to and including life in prison. 

 

 

FREEDOM OF ACCESS TO CLINIC ENTRANCES (FACE)

 

18 U.S.C. § 248

FACE

Section 248 makes it unlawful for a person to use force, the threat of force, or physical obstruction to intentionally injure or intimidate a person because he or she is or has been obtaining or providing reproductive health services.

Section 248 also makes it unlawful for a person to use force, the threat of force, or physical obstruction to intentionally injure or intimidate a person because he or she is lawfully exercising the right of religious freedom at a place of worship.

Finally, Section 248 makes it unlawful for a person to intentionally damage or destroy the property of a facility because it provides reproductive health services, or because it is a place of worship. Section 248 also prohibits anyone from attempting to commit any of the above.

The term “reproductive health care facility,” includes both facilities that provide abortions as well as facilities that provide alternative counseling.

In the absence of aggravating factors, a first offense under this statute is a misdemeanor punishable by six months imprisonment for a non-violent obstruction offense, and up to a year for an offense involving force or threats.  A second offense (committed after conviction on a different FACE offense) is punishable by up to eighteen months in prison for a non-violent obstruction offense and by up to three years in prison for an offense involving force or threats.  If bodily injury results, then the penalty is increased to up to ten years.  If death results, the penalty may be up to life imprisonment.

 

 

PEONAGE, SLAVERY AND TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS

 

18 U.S.C. § 1589

Forced Labor

Section 1589 makes it unlawful to knowingly provide or obtain the labor or services of a person through one of the following prohibited means:

a.  Force, physical restraint, or threats of force or restraint to the victim or another

b.   Serious harm or threats of serious harm to the victim or another

c.   Abuse or threatened abuse of law or legal process

d.   Any scheme, plan, or pattern intended to cause victims to believe that the victim or another would suffer serious harm or physical restraint if he/she did not perform labor/services.

Section 1589 also makes it a crime to benefit, financially or by receiving anything of value, from a venture that has engaged in conduct described in the paragraph above, knowing or in reckless disregard that the venture has provided or obtained the labor or services of a person using any of the listed prohibited means.

The statute specifies that “serious harm” may include physical or non-physical harm, including psychological, financial or reputational harm that is sufficiently serious to compel a reasonable person of the same background and circumstances as the victim to perform the labor or services in order to avoid the harm.

The offense is a felony punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment, or up to life if the violation involves a statutory aggravating factor such as death resulting from the offense, kidnapping, aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill.

 

18 U.S.C. § 1590

Trafficking with respect to peonage, slavery, involuntary servitude, or forced labor

Section 1590 makes it a crime to recruit, harbor, transport, provide or obtain a person by any means for labor or services in violation of Chapter 77 of U.S. Code Title 18 (covering crimes of peonage, slavery and trafficking in persons.)

The Section also punishes any person who obstructs, attempts to obstruct, interferes with or prevents the enforcement of this section.

The offense is a felony punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment, or up to life if the violation involves a statutory aggravating factor such as death resulting from the offense, kidnapping, aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill.
 

18 U.S.C. § 1591

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

Section 1591 criminalizes sex trafficking of children or of anyone by force fraud or coercion, in or affecting interstate commerce or within the special maritime or territorial jurisdiction of the United State. 

Sex trafficking is defined as recruiting, enticing, harboring, transporting, providing, obtaining, advertising, maintaining, patronizing, or soliciting a person to engage in a commercial sex act – or benefitting financially from participating in a venture that does so.  The conduct is prohibited under this section where the trafficked person is a minor or where the trafficking conduct involves prohibited means:

  • The defendant knew or recklessly disregarded that force, threats of force, fraud, or coercion will be used to cause the victim to engage in the sex act OR
  • The defendant knew or recklessly disregarded that the victim was under the age of 18

 
A commercial sex act means any sex act, on account of which anything of value is given to or received by any person.  A venture is defined as any group of two or more individuals associated in fact. 

Section 1591 contains a special evidentiary provision whereby the prosecution need not prove knowledge or reckless disregard when the victim is a juvenile and the defendant had an opportunity to observe the victim.  This provision does not apply to cases that involve only benefiting financially or receiving anything of value.

The punishment is a fine and a minimum of 15 years’ imprisonment up to life if the conduct described above either involves a victim who is under the age of 14 or involves force, threats of force, fraud, or coercion.  Otherwise the punishment is a fine and a minimum of ten years imprisonment up to life.

Section 1591 also punishes any person who obstructs, attempts to obstruct, interferes with or prevents the enforcement of this statute with a fine, imprisonment up to 20 years or both.

 

18 U.S.C. § 1581

Peonage

Section 1581 prohibits holding or returning a person to a condition of peonage, or arresting a person with intent to place or return him into a condition of peonage. 

Peonage is defined as compelling someone to work against their will for payment of a debt.  Compulsion must be through force, the threat of force, physical restraint, or abuse or threatened abuse of law (imprisonment).  Section 1581 also prohibits obstructing, attempting to obstruct, interfering with or preventing enforcement of the above statute.

The offense is a felony punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment, or up to life if the violation involves a statutory aggravating factor such as death resulting from the offense, kidnapping, aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill.

 

18 U.S.C. § 1584

Involuntary Servitude

Section 1584 makes it unlawful to sell or hold a person in a condition of involuntary servitude.  This requires that the victim be forced into labor by force, threats of force, restraint, or legal coercion. 

The offense is a felony punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment, or up to life if the violation involves a statutory aggravating factor such as death resulting from the offense, kidnapping, aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill.

Section 1584 also punishes any person who obstructs, attempts to obstruct, interferes with or prevents the enforcement of this statute with a fine, imprisonment up to 20 years or both.

 

18 U.S.C. § 1592

Unlawful Conduct with Respect to Documents

Section 1592 makes it illegal to destroy, conceal, remove, confiscate, or possess certain documents of another person in the course of a violation of or with intent to violate certain slavery and trafficking statutes, or to prevent or restrict, or attempt to prevent or restrict, the movement or travel of a current or former victim of a severe form of trafficking in persons in order to maintain the labor or services of that person.  The statute applies to documents that are actual or purported passports, other immigration documents, or other government identification documents. 

The statute also prohibits obstructing or attempting to obstruct, interfering with or preventing the enforcement of this section.

A victim of a “severe form of trafficking in persons” is defined in the civil victim protection provisions of the TVPA at 22 U.S.C. § 7102(9).The statute does not apply to the conduct of a victim of severe forms of trafficking in persons if that conduct is caused by or incident to that victimization.

The penalty for violating the statute is up to five years imprisonment.

 

18 U.S.C. § 1593

Mandatory Restitution

This statute provides for mandatory restitution for trafficking victims in the “full amount of the victims losses” as determined by the court, and in addition to any other civil or criminal penalties.

 

18 U.S.C. § 1593A

Benefiting financially from peonage, slavery, and trafficking in persons

This statute penalizes any person who benefits financially or receives anything of value from participation in a venture which has engaged in violations of §§ 1581(a) [peonage], 1592 [unlawful conduct with respect to documents], or 1595(a), knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that the venture has engaged in this violation.

The penalty for a violation of this statute is the same as for a completed violation of the underlying section.

18 U.S.C. § 1594(a)

Attempts

This statute penalizes attempts to violate specified sections of Chapter 77, including Sections 1589 and 1591, the most commonly-charged trafficking statutes.  The penalty is the same as for a completed crime.

18 U.S.C. § 1594(b) and (c)

Conspiracy

These subsections of Section 1594 penalize conspiring to violate specified sections of the Chapter 77.

The penalty for conspiracy is punishable to the same extent as for the underlying violations, except in the case of § 1591 (sex trafficking of children or by force, fraud or coercion); there is no mandatory minimum for conspiracy to violate § 1591.

18 U.S.C. § 1594(d) and (e)

Forfeiture

This statute requires forfeiture of property used during the commission of a trafficking crime or which constitutes proceeds of such a crime.

18 U.S.C. § 1596 and

18 U.S.C. § 3271

Extra-territorial jurisdiction

§ 1596 gives extraterritorial jurisdiction over specified violations of Chapter 77, and over attempts and conspiracies to commit those offenses, if the alleged offender is a national or lawful permanent resident of the United States, or if the alleged offender is present in the United States.

For conduct that occurred prior to enactment of § 1596 or that is not covered by that section, § 3271 is available to prosecute extraterritorial violations of Chapter 77 (peonage, slavery and trafficking in persons) and Chapter 117 (transportation for illegal sexual activity) committed by individuals employed by or accompanying the federal government.

Related criminal statutes used to prosecute human traffickers

Multiple Statutes

In order to obtain justice against individuals involved in human trafficking, the Division makes use of a range of related criminal statutes.  The Division does not prosecute these statutes in every case in which they are violated, but only where there is evidence of a victim of severe forms of trafficking in persons.  Examples of related statutes commonly used to prosecute human traffickers include:

18 USC § 2421 – Transportation or attempted transportation of a person in interstate or foreign commerce, with intent that the person engage in prostitution or other sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a crime, is punishable by a fine or up to ten years’ imprisonment or both.

18 USC § 2422 – Transportation of a minor in interstate or foreign commerce, with intent that the minor engage in prostitution or other sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a crime, is punishable by a fine and a minimum of 10 years’ imprisonment or for life.  This section also prohibits travel in interstate and foreign commerce with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct involving children; engaging in such illicit sexual conduct in foreign places; and facilitating such travel.  These offenses are punishable by a fine or up to 30 years’ imprisonment, or both.  Attempts and conspiracy to violate this section are punishable to the same extent as the underlying violation.

18 USC § 1351 – Fraud in foreign labor contracting involves the use of materially false or fraudulent pretenses to recruit a person outside the United States for employment in the United States or for employment outside the United States on a US government contract, military installation or mission.  This violation is punishable by a fine or up to five years’ imprisonment, or both.

18 USC § 1546 – Fraud and misuse of visas, permits and other documents.

8 USC § 1324 – Bringing and harboring certain aliens.  This section describes violations related to smuggling, harboring and hiring for employment of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States.  Penalties range from a fine and imprisonment for not more than one year up to life imprisonment or death, depending on the conduct and on the presence of aggravating factors.

8 USC § 1328 – Importation of alien for immoral purpose.  This section punishes any person who imports or holds, or so attempts, or keeps, maintains, controls, supports or harbors an alien for the purpose of prostitution or any other immoral purpose.  The penalty is a fine, imprisonment for up to ten years, or both.

 
     
Updated July 28, 2017