Sex Trafficking in California
The United States Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) to prohibit trafficking, punish traffickers, and protect victims. The TVPA defines a trafficking victim as “a person induced to perform labor or a commercial sex act through force, fraud, or coercion.” Under the federal TVPA, individuals who are federally certified as victims of severe forms of trafficking are eligible to receive federal benefits, but the certification process can take as long as two years. On September 29, 2006, California became the first state in the nation to enact a law (The Access to Benefits for Human Trafficking and Other Serious Crime Victims Act) providing a “bridge” of temporary services to offer immediate assistance to victims as they await federal certification.
 
Prevalence of Sex Trafficking in California
According to the California Alliance to Combat Trafficking and Slavery Task Force, California is a top destination for human traffickers due to the state’s extensive international border, its major harbors and airports, its large economy and growing population, its large immigrant population and its industries requiring low-skilled workers. 
 
According to a baseline estimate, there were 559 potential victims of trafficking between December 1, 2005 and March 12, 2007. However, little research currently exists on the actual extent of trafficking in California, so the exact figures of trafficked persons is unknown.
 
California’s Trafficking Legislation
California was one of the first states in the nation to criminalize human trafficking, passing a Trafficking Victims Protection Act in September of 2005. The Act made human trafficking a felony in California. It protected victims who were trafficked for forced labor or sexual services, and made no distinctions between these types of trafficking in persons. Human trafficking is currently addressed by a number of provisions in California law.
 
Definition of Trafficking
The California definition of trafficking states that a "person who deprives or violates the personal liberty of another with the intent to effect or maintain [violations of specified felonies] . . . or to obtain forced labor or services, is guilty of human trafficking."[1] Deprivation or violation of personal liberty is defined by listing the most common means of exploiting trafficking victims, such as coercion and deceit. The deprivation must be "substantial and sustained," which simplifies and broadens the federal list of methods of gaining control over the person. The listed felonies include mostly sex-related crimes, such as pimping, enticing or procuring a person into prostitution, and child pornography. Extortion is also listed, presumably to include debt bondage situations. However, the law is careful to avoid specific mention of sex crimes in its definition of forms of trafficking. It establishes human trafficking for forced labor or services as a felony crime punishable by a sentence of 3, 4 or 5 years in state prison and a sentence of 4, 6 or 8 years for trafficking of a minor.[2]
 
Defining “Victim”
California legislation defines “victim” broadly to include individuals other than the actual trafficked person, such as family of the trafficked person. It creates strict guidelines and timetables for the issuance of Law Enforcement Agency Endorsements (LEAs) for trafficking victims.[3] A new section was added to California’s anti-trafficking legislation in 2008 that increases the potential identification of trafficking victims by requiring law enforcement to assess whether a victim of domestic violence or rape, a person suspected of violating prostitution and solicitation codes, or a person deprived of his or her personal liberty is also a victim of human trafficking.[4] Some of the signs that officers are directed to look for include trauma, fatigue or injury, whether the person is withdrawn or afraid to talk, whether the person does not have freedom of movement, whether the person owes a debt to her employer or whether security measures are used to control access to the victim.
 
Relief
 California law allows a trafficking victim to bring a civil action against his or her trafficker for actual damages, restitution, and punitive damages.[5] It provides for mandatory restitution to the victim, including the victim’s economic loss, such as lost wages, medical expenses, and the value of property damaged or stolen by the trafficker. A court may also order restitution for non-economic losses, such as psychological harm.[6]
 
Confidentiality
California’s trafficking legislation provides for human trafficking victim-caseworker privilege, to protect confidential information.[7]
 
Task Force
 
The California Alliance to Combat Trafficking and Slavery task force, created by California’s anti-trafficking law, released a report in 2007 that makes several recommendations for strengthening and enhancing California’s anti-trafficking laws and procedures, and gathering better data and information on the extent of human trafficking in California. 


[1] Cal. Penal Code § 236.1(a).
[2] Cal. Penal Code § 236.1.
[3] Cal. Penal Code § 236.2.
[4] Cal. Penal Code § 236.2.
[5] Cal. Civil Code § 52.5.
[6] Cal. Penal Code § 1202.4.
[7] Cal. Evidence Code § 1038.