Is sex or human trafficking a felony in Maryland?

Is sex or human trafficking a felony in Maryland?

Being accused of sex crimes is very serious in Maryland, especially if there’s any sense of coercion or fraud involved. Why? These added offenses instantly help turn a once potentially misdemeanor crime into a felony. As someone who is accused of this kind of crime, it’s important to defend yourself, because it’s not always clear how a charge will be dealt with; it could be a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the situation.

In Maryland, any time fraud, force or coercion leads to a person performing a sexual act, the crime is a felony. The same is true if you help, benefit from or harbor a minor who is being prostituted. That means that even as a parent or friend, if your underage ward, a child or someone staying at your home has been a prostitute, you could be accused of harboring him or her and could be charged with a felony. Of course, those charges can be argued, but the fact remains that mistakes about a situation can get you into hot water.

Human trafficking in Maryland has been in the news, and this is because Maryland has some of the lightest penalties for those charged with human trafficking in all of the United States. Does that increase the number of sex traffickers into Maryland? It’s possible, but one interesting fact is that a bill to increase criminal penalties for human trafficking has failed in the Maryland General Assembly.

Why would such a bill fail? Likely because the laws in place already function similarly. According to the news article, the penalties are assumed to be misdemeanors by advocates of the bill, but the truth is that when fraud, force, and coercion are added in, the charges quickly add up to felonies.

Source: Reason, “No, Sex Trafficking Isn’t a Misdemeanor in Maryland,” Elizabeth Nolan Brown, Aug. 06, 2015

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