What Is the Punishment for Sex Trafficking in California?

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The crime of sex trafficking has received a significant amount of publicity recently. As a result, anyone charged with sex trafficking could face tremendous public scorn and a very long prison sentence.

Therefore, having sex trafficking charges levied against you might leave you feeling like you could never get a fair trial because everyone assumes you are guilty.  

Having the right sex crimes lawyer in California will help you level the playing field. At The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, our mission is to fight aggressively to get you the best result possible.

We offer our clients superior service and advocacy to reduce or eliminate the negative impact a California sex trafficking charge could have on your life. To get started, please contact us today.

What Is Sex Trafficking in California?

According to the California Penal Code §236.1, the crime of sex trafficking occurs when the perpetrator deprives the victim of their liberty or violates the victim’s personal freedom with the intent to cause the victim to engage in certain acts.

These acts include the following:

  • Prostitution;
  • Pimping;
  • Pandering;
  • Offering a child under 16 to engage in prostitution; 
  • Creating, promoting, or producing child pornography; or
  • Taking a person under 18 from their parents or guardians without consent, intending to have the child engage in prostitution.

Additionally, causing or inducing a minor to engage in commercial sexual activity as a prostitute, pimp, or panderer is also sex trafficking.

Sex Trafficking Penalty 

The possible prison sentence you face for sex trafficking in California depends on many factors.

A conviction for sex trafficking by depriving someone of their liberty or freedom carries a prison sentence of 8, 14, or 20 years. The law also imposes a fine of no more than $500,000. 

Inducing, persuading, or coercing a minor to engage in a commercial sex act carries a state prison sentence of 5, 8, or 12 years.

However, the potential incarceration increases to 15 years up to life imprisonment for inducing a minor to engage in commercial sex activities.

To warrant the increased prison time, the crime must have involved an element of force, fear, fraud, deceit, coercion, violence, duress, menace, or threats to the victim or another person. 

Whether the accused induced a minor to engage in a commercial sex act is a question of fact for a jury to decide.

The court will instruct the jury to consider the totality of the circumstances surrounding the incident.

When considering the totality of the circumstances, the jury should consider the relationship between the victim and the accused, the victim’s age, and whether the victim has any physical, emotional, or psychological handicaps. 

The law does not allow consent as a valid defense against sex trafficking. Notwithstanding, you might have several defenses you could argue, like mistaken identity, coercion, threats, alibi, or entrapment.

The facts and circumstances of your case are unique and dictate the best defense for your situation.

Because every case is unique, you need the trained eye of a seasoned attorney to strategize the strongest defense possible.

Get in Touch With Award-Winning Defense Lawyers in San Diego Today

Defense attorney Kerry L. Armstrong and his team have committed their careers to protecting the rights of people like you.

Attorney Armstrong received recognition as the San Diego Criminal Defense Bar Association’s Trial Attorney of the Year in 2013.

He is also one of the few attorneys who have been designated as a criminal defense specialist by the State Bar of California.

Kerry and his team of San Diego County criminal defense lawyers have tried well over 100 cases to jury trial, so don’t hesitate to put their experience to work for you.

Call 619-234-2300 to schedule a free and confidential consultation, or contact us online today. 

Author Photo

Kerry L. Armstrong


Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm in June 2007. Mr. Armstrong attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and received his B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. Kerry L. Armstrong became certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization for criminal law in August 2020, making him one of the few criminal defense attorneys with a criminal law legal specialization certificate in San Diego County.  Between 2014 – 2019, Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys.

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