Human trafficking is the act of placing a person into the trade in people for the purpose of forced labor, sexual slavery, or commercial sexual exploitation. To force someone, especially someone over whom control has been acquired through human trafficking, into labor is called “involuntary servitude.” Both acts are crimes in Nevada. They are also crimes under federal law. These crimes are among the most serious criminal offenses in the state of Nevada, and the consequences of conviction can be quite severe.
Of course, prostitution is legal in some locations in Nevada. Specifically, it is legal in counties with populations of under 400,000. Clark County, in which Las Vegas is located, has a population of over 400,000, so prostitution is not legal in Las Vegas. Still, many people feel that the legality of prostitution in some locales in Nevada is a factor in causing a large amount of sex trafficking to take place in that state, which can lead to involuntary servitude.
Some people believe that Involuntary servitude can be differentiated from slavery, and they are distinguished in the Thirteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and related laws, which outlaw both practices. Slavery may relate more to people treated as property and legally owned. Those in servitude may be indebted in some way to the person who keeps them under control, perhaps by making them work to pay off a debt of some pernicious type, e.g. a debt for transporting the person illegally into the U.S. But a person in involuntary servitude is not property.
The practice was abolished along with slavery, although historically some fell from slavery into involuntary servitude. State laws now also make the practice illegal.
How Does Nevada Define Involuntary Servitude?
Involuntary servitude occurs when a person knowingly subjects or attempts to subject someone to forced labor without pay. Per Nevada law, a person subjects another person to involuntary solitude when they force that person to engage in labor by doing any of the following:
- Physically restraining or threatening to restrain the victim;
- Causing or threatening to cause physical harm to the victim;
- Abusing or threatening to abuse the legal process in such a way as to control the victim;
- Extorting the victim;
- Causing or threatening to cause the victim financial problems;
- Knowingly concealing, destroying, or confiscating immigration documents, passports, or other government identification documents belonging to the person;
- Causing or threatening to cause financial harm to the person.
Extortion is the demanding and getting something through force, or inflicting something such as pain and suffering or making somebody endure something unpleasant, unless they give the perpetrator something of value. In the case of involuntary servitude, that is the person’s labor.
What If the Victim Is a Minor?
If the victim is a minor, then the crime is a separate criminal offense. Involuntary servitude of a minor happens when a person who has physical custody of a minor allows them to live in their home, and knowingly:
- Forces the minor into service or labor by causing or attempting to cause serious bodily harm to the minor. The serious harm may consist of physical injury or sexual assault;
- Receives anything of value by forcing the minor into labor other than the provision of sexual gratification.
What Is the Punishment for Involuntary Servitude of an Adult in Nevada?
If an adult is the victim of involuntary servitude, then the crime is a category B felony. The punishment for a category B felony is as follows:
- If the victim sustains substantial bodily harm while held in involuntary servitude or in an attempted escape or escape from involuntary servitude, upon conviction the perpetrator may be sentenced to a term of imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum of no less than 7 years and a maximum of no more than 20 years; A fine of up to $50,000 may also be imposed;
- If the victim does not sustain any substantial bodily harm while held in involuntary servitude, upon conviction the perpetrator may be sentenced to a term of imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum of no less than 5 years and a maximum of no more than 20 years. Again, a fine of up to $50,000 may be imposed.
What Is the Punishment for Involuntary Servitude of a Minor in Nevada?
A person who has physical custody of a minor, allows a minor to live in their residence, is in a position of authority over a minor or provides care for any length of time to a minor and who knowingly does any of the following is guilty of involuntary servitude of a minor:
- Obtains labor or services from a minor by causing or threatening to cause serious bodily injury to the minor or by engaging in a pattern of behavior that results in physical injury, sexual abuse or sexual assault of the minor;
- Benefits, financially or by receiving anything of value other than sexual gratification from the labor obtained by the conduct specified above;
A person who is found guilty of holding a minor in involuntary servitude is guilty of a category A felony in Nevada. They may be punished as follows:
- By imprisonment in the state prison for life with the possibility of parole; eligibility for parole does not begin until a minimum of 15 years has been served, and
- Imposition of a fine of at least $50,000.00.
It is important to note that the consent of the victim to performing the labor or services is not a defense to a charge of involuntary servitude of a minor.
It is not involuntary servitude of a minor if the parent or guardian of a child requires the minor to perform common household chores under the threat of the reasonable exercise of discipline by the parent or guardian.
For the purposes of this law, examples of what constitutes “physical injury” includes the following:
- A sprain or dislocation;
- Cartilage damage;
- A bone or skull fracture;
- An intracranial hemorrhage or injury to internal organs;
- Disfigurement that is either permanent or temporary, including, without limitation, burns, cuts, punctures or bites.
For the purposes of this law, the phrase “serious harm” means harm of any type. It can be physical or nonphysical, psychological, financial or reputational harm. It must be sufficiently serious, under the circumstances, to compel a reasonable person of the same background and in the same circumstances as those in which the victim was to cause the victim to perform labor so as to avoid suffering that harm.
“Sexual abuse” includes acts upon a victim who is a child that constitute any of the following:
- Lewdness with a child per Nevada law;
- Sado-masochistic abuse per Nevada law;
- Sexual assault per Nevada law;
- Open or gross lewdness per Nevada law; and
- Mutilation of the genitalia of a female child, as well as aiding, abetting, or encouraging or participating in the mutilation of the genitalia of a female child, or removal of a female child from the state of Nevada for the purpose of mutilating the genitalia of the child as defined by Nevada law.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
A criminal charge of involuntary servitude is a very serious charge, especially if the victim is a minor. Conviction can lead to a lengthy prison sentence. If you have been charged with any form of involuntary servitude, you should consult a Nevada criminal defense lawyer immediately to determine the best way to resolve this criminal charge.