Trafficking Laws In Texas

Trafficking in the State of Texas has reached a fever pitch recently as claims (some warranted, some dubious) about it being on the rise has made rounds in the media. But what is Trafficking? How is it defined in the state? And what are the penalties? These are some of the areas we're going to touch on in this page.

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Trafficking laws in Texas are described in detail (albeit in legal jargon) in Chapter 20 of the state’s official penal code. As always, the published legal code is up to date (as this site strives to be) but if you have any doubt about the law has changed, please consult the official document.

How Does Texas Define Trafficking

Texas defines “Traffic”, as in the word Trafficking, as a “means to transport, entice, recruit, harbor, provide, or otherwise obtain another person by any means.” That broad definition is going to apply explicitly to children (which the state defines as anyone under the age of 18) and essentially mean the trafficking without permission from a legal guardian. You can have trafficking without sexual trafficking, but sex trafficking is only one of the handful of ways that the offense becomes more severe.

Other types of trafficking include:

  • Forcing someone to drink or otherwise become intoxicated without their consent.
  • Or even the withholding of any controlled substance, such as alcohol, if the person that is being trafficked has an addiction. One needn’t a wonderous imagination to imagine how this stipulation came to be.
  • Forcing someone into unwanted labor or work that they didn’t consent to.
  • Finally, if you impair a trafficked person through the use of substances so that they can no longer consent, that’s also going to amplify the penalty for trafficking.

Penalties For Trafficking In Texas

Broadly speaking, if you are convicted of human trafficking in the state of Texas the penalty is either a first-degree felony or a second-degree felony. Unless you commit one of the offenses, below, trafficking is a second-degree felony that comes with a minimum sentence of two years and a maximum sentence of up to twenty years in prison.

A felony can be escalated to first-degree penalty if one of the following conditions are proved by the state, that the offense occurred:

  • Within 1,000 feet of a school.
  • Or just within 1,000 feet of some official *school function or an event sponsored by the University Interscholastic League.
  • You’re guilty of “Continous Trafficking of a Persons”, which in Texas means you’ve engaged in Trafficking more than once over a period of at least 30 days.
  • The action results in the death of the victim.
  • The victim of trafficking was recruited from a shelter for “runaway youth, foster children, the homeless, or persons subjected to human trafficking, domestic violence, or sexual assault.”
  • Finally, the offense is a first-degree felony if the action results in the death of an unborn child.

Note that Texas is very liberal in how they define “school.” Here school simply means a “public or private primary or secondary school” as defined by the state. Note that definitions of school may change based on the law being described and thus this is the definition of school specifically within the confines of trafficking laws (we know, the law is tricky).

Felonies of the first degree are not in danger of receiving the death penalty but may be sentenced to any prison sentence of up to 99 years. Five years is going to be the minimum sentence for someone convicted of a first-degree offense.

Texas Law Changes

What If You Benefited From Human Trafficking?

The state takes additional steps to make sure that if you knowingly benefited from someone being trafficked (such as the benefits of their forced labor) then you can expect to severe punishment as well. Another example might be if you participated in some sort of a prostitution ring or engaged in sexual conduct with someone who was being trafficked.

If convicted of benefiting from human trafficking, you are guilty of a first-degree felony which carries with it a minimum sentence of five years and a maximum sentence of up to 99 years. The best thing you can do if you believe you benefited (in some form or another) with someone you believe may have been a victim of human trafficking but are unsure, contact the police or an attorney immediately.