Sex crimes and human trafficking
Human trafficking was all but unheard of in the Pittsburgh region’s courts until two years ago. Now, mounting concern about sex crimes in Western Pennsylvania has sparked public awareness about the issue. Experts in the region are saying that human trafficking allegations are not always confined to operations in urban centers or in coastal areas. In fact, two people were indicted in February for child sex trafficking after allegedly transporting a 16-year-old girl to different parts of the state to engage in prostitution. One of those men is a former drug dealer, while the other had been a state corrections officer. In another case, a 40-year-old man pleaded guilty in connection with the first human trafficking charge brought in Pittsburgh in years. That man was accused of trafficking a 14-year-old girl. He could face up to 12 years in prison in connection with the allegations. Human trafficking is defined as forcing or deceiving another person into sexual commerce or domestic service. Involving a minor in prostitution also falls under that umbrella. Many of the alleged victims in the Pennsylvania cases do not speak English, so they are reluctant to seek help. Further, those supposed victims may also be uneducated about the U.S. legal system. Many of them fear the police because of experiences with law enforcement in their home countries. Convictions are rare in Pennsylvania because of these confounding factors, but new legislation may change the legal landscape in the state. Pennsylvania does not top the list of most vigilant jurisdictions for sex trafficking; in fact, enforcement groups have given the state an ‘F’ for failing to identify this type of sexual misconduct. There has only been one conviction under existing Pennsylvania human trafficking law, according to legislators. Proposed legislation is pending that would tighten state rules and enable more aggressive prosecution for those accused of trafficking. Although few alleged offenders are prosecuted in for human trafficking, that could change if the proposed legislation is passed. Those accused of sex crimes may be able to obtain more information about sex trafficking laws from a Pennsylvania attorney. Those criminal defense attorneys may employ resources to promote the interests of their clients under the new legislation if it is passed. If you have questions about human trafficking laws, call Allegheny County criminal defense attorney Gary Gerson for a free consultation at (412) 281-3380 today.