• Brooke Ruhl

Prosecuting Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is a risk and danger to everyone. But what happens when human traffickers are caught? Well, unfortunately, prosecuting and convicting human traffickers poses more interesting and difficult challenges. In the United States, people and groups have dedicated their time to bringing traffickers to justice, but they face many obstacles.

Photo by Kevin Maillefer

Penalties if convicted

According to 18 U.S. Code 1581, the conviction for holding a person in slavery carries potential fines and a maximum prison term of 20 years in a federal prison, and if there are any fatalities, life in prison is a possibility. The sentencing for trafficking of children also poses harsh punishments, with a minimum of 10 years in prison, and up to a life sentence.


While the convictions are suitable to the crime, actually convicting traffickers is extremely challenging. According to the US Department of State, only around 1,000 cases of forced labor were prosecuted globally in 2016. This is a small, small percentage of the estimated 16 million forced labor cases worldwide.

Human trafficking cases are hard to track, and in some cases the actions they are performing are legal. An example of this would be labor trafficking. It is challenging to legally distinguish whether someone is, for example, working on a farm voluntarily or involuntarily. Sex trafficking proves to be an easier crime to convict than labor trafficking because the nature of the work is illegal under almost all circumstances.

Human trafficking also often crossed borders and passes through jurisdictions, often going undetected, or becomes too complicated to prosecute in one place.


The Human Trafficking Legal Center mission is to,

"We create a bridge between trafficking survivors and highly skilled pro bono legal representation. Together we work to hold traffickers accountable for their crimes through civil litigation and criminal restitution"

Check out the work they do here

Please share the Human Trafficking Legal Center’s accounts on social media, this may help victims see there is a resource for them. Find their twitter account here.

Tweet me!

@Brooke_Ruhl and use the hashtag #BRuhly_Trafficked


Brooke Ruhl

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Brooke Ruhl

University of Nevada Reno

2020 by Brooke Ruhl.