Human Trafficking in Oklahoma

Friday, January 5, 2018 - 12:07pm
Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is, allegedly, modern day slavery.  This, at least, is how those vaguely familiar with the term view it.  What it really is, however, is an attempt to use fancy words to make old crimes seem even more morally worse than they have traditionally have been considered to be.

The difference between slavery and human trafficking, in my opinion, is that in slavery you coerce people into doing otherwise legal things, like agriculture.  It is a status conferred by the government, more or less.  Some people are slaves and some people are not and whether they are or not is usually up to somebody else, either the state or somebody appointed or approved by the state.

Human trafficking, in most cases, boils down to being a pimp, otherwise known as pandering.  There are, in fact, people who "traffick" in people, that is they take them from one place to another essentially for sale, but that's not the usual case.  But anyway let's look at how this shakes out.

"Human Trafficking" in Oklahoma is forbidden in accordance with 21 O.S. §748 and victims of human trafficking have certain rights, including the right not to be prosecuted for committing any crimes while being trafficked, 21 O.S. §748.2.  The statute is vague and poorly written and would appear to be applicable to anybody who hires anybody else for any purpose, lawful or unlawful, when the hired person's financial health, or anything else important to them, depends on continued work for the hiring party, whether the hiring party knows that or not.  Importantly, the consent of the alleged victim is not a defense to the charge.  So if strip club owner hires exotic dancer and exotic dancer continues dancing because she needs the money and local prosecutor does not like it, a charge could potentially be levied against the strip club owner.  Obviously, the prosecutor filing such charges is very unlikely, but the scenario meets the statute, again, in my opinion.

The Court of Criminal Appeals has a committe that sets forth Official Jury Instructions that tell juries in criminal cases how to decide whether a person is guilty of a charge.  Mind you, the instructions do not tell the jury what, exactly, to decide but rather how to go about deciding.  The committee is smarter than the legislature and has set some limits on convictions.  An enterprising prosecutor could probably get around that limitation, but in most cases the limitation would remain and it is very necessary.

So, here are the Jury Instructions (for Human Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation).  Keep in mind that there are more sets of instructions for different kinds of human trafficking (for labor, involving children, etc.)  The State has to show each element beyond a reasonable doubt:

First, knowingly;

Second, recruiting/enticing/harboring/maintaining/transporting/ providing/obtaining another/other person(s);

Third, through deception/force/fraud/threat/coercion;

[Fourth, for the purpose of engaging that/those person(s) in an act of commercial sex.


First, knowingly;

Second, benefiting (financially/(by receiving anything of value));

Third, from participating in a venture that has engaged in;

Fourth, recruiting/enticing/harboring/maintaining/transporting/ providing/obtaining another/other person(s);

Fifth, through deception/force/fraud/threat/coercion;

Sixth, for the purpose of engaging that/those person(s) in an act of commercial sex.

The committee added the requirement of "through deception/force/fraud/threat/coercion", which, in my opinion nullifies the legislature's requirement that the consent of the alleged victim is not a defense.  You can't really force somebody to do something they consent to and the issue in many cases will become a matter of whether the consent is genuine or a product of the alleged coercion.

Penalty.  The penalty for Human Trafficking is from 5 years in prison to life in prison.  The charge is an 85% charge meaning that 85% of the sentence must actually be served prior to the defendant receiving any sort of credit or eligibility for early release.  By contrast, Pandering (being a pimp) carries from 2 years to 20 years and is not an 85% crime.


If you are charged with Human Trafficking you have a serious problem with extremely serious consequences.  Call us today at (405) 601-9393.  We are state-wide with reasonable rates and excellent results.

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