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Federal & State Laws

Federal Laws

Trafficking Victims Prevention Act (TVPA)2000

The TVPA, enacted October 28, 2000, was the first comprehensive federal law to address trafficking. This Act incorporated a two-tiered definition of trafficking which included severe forms of trafficking in persons and sex trafficking. The law provided a three pronged approach for combating trafficking: prevention through public awareness programs overseas and a State Department run monitoring/sanctions program; protection for victims through visa opportunities and services for foreign national victims; and prosecution through new federal crimes. Provisions in the Act included:

  • $95 million, over the course of two years, for the enforcement of anti-trafficking provisions as new assistance programs.
  • The requirement of annual reports on trafficking as part of the State Department Country reports on Human Rights.
  • The creation of an Inter-agency Task Force to monitor and combat trafficking, which would facilitate and evaluate progress in trafficking prevention, victims assistance, and the prosecution of traffickers.
  • The authorization of grants for shelters and rehabilitation programs.
  • Relief from deportation for victims who face retribution or other hardship if removed from the U.S. through the creation of the T Visa and the temporary legal status of “continued presence.”
  • The creation of new crimes of forced labor (18 U.S.C. § 1589); trafficking with respect to peonage slavery, involuntary servitude, or forced labor (18 U.S.C § 1590); sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion or sex trafficking of children(18 U.S.C § 1591); and unlawful conduct with documents in furtherance of trafficking (18 U.S.C. § 1592).
  • Severe punishments, including up to life imprisonment, and the possibility of severe economic sanctions for people convicted of operating trafficking enterprises within the U.S.

Trafficking Victims Prevention Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) 2003

The TVPRA, enacted December 19, 2003, reauthorized appropriations for fiscal years 2004 and 2005. The reauthorization called for increased cooperation between foreign governments, assistance for family members of victims and enhanced prosecution of traffickers.  The law enhanced prevention of trafficking in persons by:

  • Authorizing more than $200 million over two years to combating human trafficking.
  • Creating a Special Watch List to keep pressure on countries of various Tiers in the trafficking report and added new criteria for the State Department to consider in drafting the trafficking in person report, including evaluating progress from year to year.
  • Allowing the U.S. Government to terminate international contracts if the contractor engages in human trafficking (through forced labor or procurement of commercial sexual services) while the contract is in force.
  • Requiring that travelers to selected locations be educated about U.S. laws against sex tourism.
  • Allowing victims to sue their perpetrators in criminal court.
  • Extending benefits to additional family members of the trafficking victim.

Trafficking Victims Prevention Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) 2005

The TVPRA, enacted January 10, 2006, enhanced specified U.S. efforts to combat trafficking in persons, including the prevention of such activities by international peacekeepers. This law further authorized new programs to serve U.S. citizens; victims of domestic trafficking that had been significantly overlooked in terms of services.  Key provisions on the Reauthorization Act include:

  • Authorizing more than $300 million over two years to combating human trafficking.
  • Providing U.S. courts with jurisdiction over federal government employees and contractors for trafficking offenses committed abroad.
  • Requiring the Attorney General to conduct a national study on the illegal commercial sex industry in the U.S., including the prevalence of severe forms of trafficking and sex trafficking in the U.S., and the approach to combat these crimes by law enforcement.
  • Requiring the establishment of a pilot program that would provide residential treatment facilities for child victims
  • Establishing a grant program for states and local law enforcement to investigate and prosecute acts of severe forms of trafficking (that involve U.S. citizens or legal residents) and criminals who purchase commercial sex acts within the United States.
    • The grants also could be used to expand or develop programs to end the demand for victims

William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008

The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 enhances federal efforts to combat both international and domestic trafficking. The law directs the President to create a system to monitor anti-trafficking efforts and programs at the federal level. The Act also strengthens the role and authority of the Trafficking in Persons Office and greatly enhances the tools available to domestic criminal prosecutors of traffickers. For example,

  • Prosecutors no longer have to prove that a defendant knew the victim was a minor; they just need to show that a defendant had a “reasonable opportunity to observe” the victim.
  • The standard of proof is lowered to “reckless disregard” for traffickers or defendants who come into contact with victims forced to engage in commercial sex acts.
  • The provision carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 to 15 years and requires no proof of fraud, force or coercion for convictions.
  • The Act expands criminal liability to anyone financially benefiting or receiving anything of value from ANY federal trafficking crime, as long as they have the required level of knowledge
  • The Act requires the Department of Justice to create a new model law making all acts of pimping and pandering per se crimes, even without proof of force, fraud or coercion or a victim’s minor age.

There are a number of new provisions in the Act specific to data collection and reporting.

  • The Act orders the Federal Bureau of Investigation to break down the categories of prostitution and commercialized vice arrests in the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) to show how many victims, johns and pimps or traffickers were arrested.
  • Human trafficking crimes will now be placed in the most serious crimes section of the UCR.
  • Several new studies from the Department of Justice about the enforcement of laws related to human trafficking are required.
  • HHS and the DOJ must submit a report on the extent of service gaps between domestic and foreign national victims.

The Act also expands protection to trafficking victims and their families in several respects. For example:

  • Additional provisions are made to provide assistance for domestic trafficking victims and vulnerable unaccompanied foreign national children.
  • The number of family members eligible for immigration assistance is broadened.
  • Witnesses are allowed to come back to the U.S. to participate in investigates
  • The time period covered by T and U Visas is extended in certain cases
  • Waiver of the “good moral character” requirement if the relevant acts were incident to the trafficking is allowed

Mann Act, 18 U.S.C.A. § 2421

The White Slave Traffic Act, better known as the Mann Act, was enacted in 1910 as a prohibition against white slavery and the interstate transportation of women for “immoral purposes.”  Since then, the Act’s definition of transportation has been modified and more protections for minors have been added.

While not enacted specifically to deal with human trafficking, the Act makes it a felony to knowingly transport any person in interstate or foreign commerce for prostitution, or for any sexual activity for which a person can be charged with a criminal offense.  A person also violates the Act if he persuades, induces, entices, or coerces an individual to travel across state lines to engage in prostitution or other immoral purposes, or attempts to do so.  This law is frequently used as an effective tool to prosecute sex traffickers.

Penalties for knowingly persuading or coercing someone to cross state lines for the purpose of engaging in prostitution include a fine or up to 20 years in prison.  However, if it is a minor who is being enticed to engage in prostitution, the penalty is ten years to life.


State Laws

78th Texas State Legislature

House Bill 2096 (Penal Code Ch. 20A.02), prohibits trafficking in persons.

The offense is categorized as a second-degree felony, with an enhancement to a first degree felony for involving a child younger than 14 years of age, or any trafficking offense that results in the death of the trafficked person.  Section 20A.01 established definitions for “forced labor or services” and “trafficking,” and § 20A.02 outlined offenses and penalties

Effective Date: Sept. 1, 2003.

80th Texas State Legislature

Summary of Adopted Legislation

House Bill 1121 – revises Texas Penal Code Section 20A to strengthen definition of human trafficking and elements of the offense:

One of the main obstacles in verifying that human trafficking has occurred under the original Section 20A provisions is due to the limited definition of “forced labor” and the required element of transportation. House Bill 1121 (HB 1121) expands the definition to include threatened actions and removes the requirement that the victim must be physically transported for the offense to be present. These provisions were incorporated from Senate Bill 1283/House Bill 3370.

HB 1121 also enables judges to issue an official verification, or judicial finding, that a victim is truly a victim of trafficking, as defined by the federal law. With the passage of this law, more victims will be able to use this judicial finding in order to obtain a T-VISA and be eligible for services available to holders of T-VISAs.

Effective Date: Immediately.

Senate Bill 1287 and Senate Bill 1288 – requires posting of rescue hotline in certain establishments:

Victims of human trafficking very rarely self-identify because of fear and lack of resources. Eighty-percent of human trafficking victims work in locations where alcohol is served. Senate Bill 1287 (SB 1287) was passed mandating that bars post a sign in both English and Spanish about forced labor and a toll-free referral number for victims of trafficking. The sign must be displayed in a clear and visible manner to the public and employees. Senate Bill 1288 (SB 1288) also requires a sign to be posted with a toll-free referral number for victims in hotels or motels pending the final disposition of common nuisance lawsuits.

SB 1287 Effective Date: Sept. 1, 2007. SB 1288 Effective Date: Immediately.

House Bill 1751 – establishes an account to fund grants to support programs for sexual assault victims, human trafficking victims, and human trafficking investigations:

The majority of human trafficking victims are women and children who are forced to perform sexual labor. House Bill 1751 (HB 1751) imposes an entrance fee of $5 for admission to certain sexually oriented businesses. The fees collected are to be sent to the Comptroller who shall deposit the first $25 million received from this fee during a state fiscal biennium to the credit of the sexual assault program fund. The bill also provides that the attorney general may award grants out of this fund to support a variety of programs providing services to, or otherwise benefiting, sexual assault victims and human trafficking victims including grants to support sexual assault and human trafficking prosecution projects. While HB 1751 did not incorporate the specific language of Senate Bill 1286/House Bill 3374 (which would have established a dedicated account providing grants to counties to investigate and prosecute human trafficking cases), HB 1751 does allow for grants to be allocated out of the sexual assault program fund for such projects.

Effective Date: January 1, 2008.
Legislation Filed But Not Adopted During 80th Legislature

Senate Bill 1285/House Bill 3372 – This bill would have implemented mandatory training of law enforcement personnel regarding human trafficking and had wide support from interested stakeholders. It never came up for a vote in either the House or the Senate after a successful hearing in the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee.

Senate Bill 1284/House Bill 3371 – This bill would have amended the state’s “compelling prostitution” statute (Texas Penal Code Section 43.05). The current law is that a person can be charged with this offense if he/she “causes by any means a person younger than 17 years to commit prostitution.” The bill would have raised that age from “younger than 17 years” to “younger than 18 years”. The bill also would have enhanced this offense to a felony of the first degree. While this bill was granted a hearing before the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, the Committee never referred the bill for further action.

81st Texas State Legislature

Summary of Adopted Legislation

House Bill 4009 – establishes a victim assistance program for domestic human trafficking victims. It includes the maintenance of a searchable database of assistance programs for domestic victims, and establishes a program to award grants to public and nonprofit organizations that provide assistance to domestic victims, promote public awareness activities, conduct community outreach and training, help in victim identification, and/or offer legal services.

HB 4009 also requires training programs and an outreach initiative for judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement personnel to increase awareness of the needs of domestic victims and the services available under the program.

Finally, the bill requires the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to conduct a study to identify additional revenue streams for the victim assistance program.  HHSC must submit a report on the study to the 82nd Legislature no later than December 1, 2010.
Amendments to HB 4009 include designation of a statewide human trafficking task force to improve data collection and align existing state resources to fight human trafficking and a mandated training of law enforcement officers to enable them to identify human trafficking victims. Additionally, the amendments revised the Compelling Prostitution statute to make it consistent with the Human Trafficking statute by raising the age of minors from under 17 to under18 and created a defense to prostitution for victims of human trafficking. Lastly, it created liability for the trafficker regardless of whether he knew the victim was a minor and requires the executive director of the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission (TJPC) to establish a committee to evaluate certain alternatives to the juvenile justice system for children who are accused of engaging in acts of prostitution.

Effective Date: September 1, 2009.

House Bill 533 – creates civil liability for human traffickers by providing victims with an avenue to sue their traffickers.  Traffickers cannot use as a defense to liability that they have been acquitted of or not prosecuted for human trafficking, or convicted of a different offense that is alleged to have given rise to liability. Plaintiffs who prevail may recover actual damages including mental anguish as well as exemplary damages, and any reasonable attorney fees.

Effective Date: Immediately

House Bill 3094 – creates liability for operating an illegitimate “massage parlor” in counties with a population of 3.3 million or more. A district or county attorney may bring a suit to enjoin the operation of the offending massage parlor. The offense is considered a Class A misdemeanor and civil penalties may also be brought in district court of up to $1,000 per violation. Each day a violation continues is considered a separate violation.  The penalties provided for in this bill are in addition to any other penalties that may be allowed under the law.

Effective Date: Immediately

Senate Bill 707- requires sexually oriented businesses to maintain proper identification records for their employees or independent contractors. SB 707 specifies that proper identification includes: 1) Physical description and photograph; 2) Date of birth of the person; 3) Be issued by a government agency (driver’s license, passport or another state issued ID). The record must be kept for up to two years after the last day of employment.

The Texas Workforce Commission, the Attorney General, or local law enforcement shall be allowed to inspect the records maintained if there is good reason to believe that a child does work or did work at the sexually oriented business within the previous two years.  A business fails to comply if it fails to maintain a record or knowingly or intentionally hinders an authorized inspection.

Effective Date: September 1, 2009

House Bill 960 – gives a municipality or county the right to access National Crime Information Center criminal history record information for the purposes of obtaining information regarding persons applying for a license to operate a sexually oriented business in the municipality or county.

Effective Date: Immediately

82nd Texas State Legislature

Summary of Adopted Legislation provided by Children At Risk

Senate Bill 24 – expands the definition of the offense of trafficking in the Penal Code to specifically address child trafficking and implements enhanced penalties when a child victim is involved; also adds language pertaining to prostitution; promotion of prostitution; and compelling prostitution.

Eliminates the statute of limitations to bring a felony indictment for trafficking of persons or compelling prostitution when a child victim is involved, and extends the statute of limitations for adult victims to ten years. Lowers the prosecutorial burden for defendants of child trafficking or compelling prostitution by admittance of evidence of extraneous offenses.

Prohibits eligibility for community supervision for persons convicted of human trafficking or compelling prostitution. Extends the civil statute of limitations for personal injury to 5 years (previously 2 years) for victims of trafficking and compelling prostitution. Requires involuntary termination of parental rights for parents who have been convicted or placed on community supervision for harming a child as a result of a trafficking or compelling prostitution offense.

Requires life imprisonment for convicted child traffickers.

Effective Date: September 1, 2011

House Bill 2014 – Addresses TABC procedures – must refuse reissuance of license for one year if license previously cancelled in prior year for prostitution or trafficking. Denial of bail for violation of condition of bond if offense committed is against a child younger than 14 years of age (trafficking or prostitution). Mandatory restitution for child victims of prostitution or compelling prostitution under age 18 – court ordered in the amount necessary for rehabilitation. Includes property used in the commission of HT to be included on the list of contraband that can be forfeited. Requires defendants of trafficking and compelling prostitution to be included in the computerized criminal history system. Increases penalty to third degree felony for Johns if child solicited 14 or older but younger than 18.

Effective Date: September 1, 2011

House Bill 3000 – Establishes “Continuous Trafficking of Persons” offense for persons who traffic two or more times during a period of 30 days or more.

Effective Date: September 1, 2011