Overview of the Laws on Sex Trafficking in Indiana
Sex trafficking is a critical issue globally, and Indiana is no exception. In fact, in the summer of 2023, two men were arrested on charges of sex trafficking in Indiana, as part of the FBI’s nationwide campaign, “Operation Cross Country.” This operation highlighted the pervasive nature of this crime in our communities, serve as a stark reminder of the ongoing battle against both sex trafficking and human trafficking in Indiana; and underscore the need for stringent laws and proactive enforcement strategies.
Given that pervasiveness of sex trafficking in today’s world, understanding the legal framework surrounding it is vital. This post will unravel some of the complexities of sex trafficking laws in Indiana and provide clear insights into the state’s legal definitions of the offense, the range of penalties associated with the crime, and address some collateral consequences an offender may face as a result of a conviction.
If you have been arrested or charged with sex trafficking, or any related sex crimes in Indiana, it’s vital that you seek legal representation as soon as possible. These are some of the most serious criminal charges a person can face and have the potential to put you behind bars for decades to come. To speak with an experienced and skilled Indiana sex crimes lawyer, contact the Indianapolis Law Office of Keffer Hirschauer LLP today at 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.
Indiana Code on Sex Trafficking
At the heart of Indiana’s legal approach to combating sex trafficking are the definitions laid out in the Indiana Criminal Code. These definitions form the backbone of how the state identifies and prosecutes such crimes. As outlined in Indiana Code 35-42-3.5, there are several different criminal offenses related to sex trafficking in Indiana. These offenses include human trafficking; the promotion of human sexual trafficking; child sexual trafficking; and the promotion of child sexual trafficking.
Human Trafficking in Indiana
Indiana Code 35-42-43.5-1.4, a person who knowingly or intentionally pays, offers/agrees to pay (money or other property), or offers a benefit to or for a human trafficking victim with the specific intent to induce or obtain the product or act for which the victim was trafficked commits human trafficking, a Level 4 felony in Indiana. Furthermore, the law clearly states that it is not a defense to prosecution that the victim consented to the act.
While this section of the law does not explicitly contain any reference to sexual activity, the wording “intent to induce or obtain the product or act for which the victim was trafficked,” could be interpreted by Courts to mean sexual activity. Thus, if a person engages the sexual services of a trafficked victim, they risk being charged with a Level 4 felony. In fact, this type of scenario occurred in 2022 when a man was arrested and charged with human trafficking in Bartholomew County, Indiana.
Promotion of Human Sexual Trafficking
The criminal offense of human sexual trafficking sounds quite similar to the offense of promoting prostitution in Indiana, and therefore are often confused with one another. However, the criminal offense of promoting prostitution occurs when a person knowingly or intentionally entices or compels another person to become a prostitute or juvenile prostitution victim. The promotion of human sexual trafficking, on the other hand, occurs when “a person knowingly or intentionally uses force, coercion, or fraud to recruit, entice, harbor, or transport an individual with the intent of causing the individual to:
- Marry another person;
- Engage in prostitution; or
- Participate in sexual conduct.
The promotion of human sexual trafficking in Indiana is a very serious crime. In fact, under Indiana Code 35-32-3.5-1.1, it is considered a Level 4 felony offense.
Child Sexual Trafficking in Indiana
In contrast to the definition of human trafficking, the legal definition for child sexual trafficking located in Indiana Code 35-42-3.5-1.3 is much more explicitly clear. Under this law, a person who is over the age of 18 who “knowingly or intentionally sells or transfers custody of a child less than 18 years of age for the purpose of prostitution, juvenile prostitution, or participating in sexual conduct commits child sexual trafficking, a Level 2 felony.”
Promotion of Child Sexual Trafficking
The promotion of child sexual trafficking is one of the most serious Indiana sex crimes. As defined in Indiana Code 35-42-3.5-1.2, a person commits child sexual trafficking, when they knowingly or intentionally recruit, entice, harbor, or transport a child less than 18 years old with the intent of causing the child to engage in prostitution or juvenile prostitution; or a performance or incident that includes sexual conduct in violation of Indiana’s laws on child exploitation. In Indiana, this offense is considered a Level 3 felony, and it is not an applicable defense that the child consented to the act(s) or the intended victim was a law enforcement officer.
It should be noted that a person may be charged with another offense under this section of the law called “promotion of sexual trafficking of a younger child.” This offense is also a Level 3 felony and occurs when the victim is less than 16 years old. However, Indiana code does provide a statutory defense for this crime. As clearly stated in Indiana Code 35-42-3.5-1.2(c) it is a defense to prosecution under this subsection if:
- The child is at least 14 years of age, but less than 16 years of age; and
- The person is less than 18 years of age; OR
- All of the following apply:
- The person is not more than 4 years older than the victim
- The relationship between the person and the victim was a dating relationship or an ongoing personal relationship
- The crime was not committed by a person who is at least 21 years of age; by using or threatening the use of deadly force; while armed with a deadly weapon; did not result in serious bodily injury; was not committed by furnishing the victim with a drug or controlled substance; and was not committed by a person having a position of authority or substantial influence over the victim.
- The person has not committed another sex offense, including a delinquent act that would be a sex offense if committed by an adult, against any other person
- The person is not promoting prostitution with respect to the victim even though the person has not been charged with or convicted of the offense
Potential Penalties for Sex Trafficking in Indiana
Indiana treats sex trafficking with the utmost seriousness, and this is reflected in the penalties prescribed by law. Under the Indiana Sentencing Guidelines in Indiana, individuals convicted of sex trafficking in Indiana can face penalties ranging from 2-30 years in prison, and fines of up to $10,000.
In addition, those convicted of sex trafficking may face costly restitution orders, as provided by Indiana Code 35-42-3.5-2, and/or be held liable for civil damages suffered by the victim. As clearly stated in Indiana Code 35-32-3.5-3, victims of sexual or human trafficking have civil cause of action against the person who committed the offense and may recover actual damages, court costs, punitive damages and/or reasonable attorney’s fees through civil action. However, an action of this nature must be brought no more than two years after the date the person is convicted.
On top of those penalties and civil actions, anyone convicted of human or sex trafficking will be required to register as a sex offender in Indiana for a period of at least 10 years. Under this registration, the offender would need to provide a variety of personal information to the registry for public publishing. On top of that, they would face a handful of sex offender restrictions, including but not limited to living within 1000 feet of a school, public park, day care or youth center; not working at a school, public park, daycare or youth center; consent to the search of your computer or any device with internet capacity; among various other prohibitions.
Need to Speak with a Criminal Defense Attorney in Indiana?
Whether you’ve been charged with a crime associated sex trafficking in Indiana, or any other criminal offense, the criminal defense attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP are available to assist you as you navigate the criminal justice process. Our firm’s managing partners, Bradley Keffer and Tom Hirschauer III, are former both former deputy prosecutors who know both sides of the criminal justice system. They, along with our other Indiana sex crime attorneys, have handled cases of this nature in the past, and understand everything that’s at stake for the accused. Our team can help you understand the severity of the charges placed against you, vigorously investigate said charges and evaluate the prosecution’s case, and ultimately, defend you in a court of law.
If you have questions or simply need to speak with an attorney today, call 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation. Remember, the best possible outcomes in serious criminal cases are secured when defendants hire an experienced, aggressive criminal defense attorney in Indiana.