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State Laws

In addition to the federal human trafficking laws, each state has its own trafficking statutes. There may be subtle or large differences between state and federal laws, but they help victims of trafficking receive services from multiple providers and help law enforcement address these crimes at different levels. Because types of crime vary between jurisdictions, state human trafficking statutes may protect victims in different ways.

State laws are often different and may not match the federal definition. It is important for task force members to have a strong understanding of all the legal tools that can be used to address trafficking. Visit VictimLaw, a user-friendly database of victims’ rights laws, which also includes all state and territorial anti-human trafficking laws. Click here for more information about state anti-human trafficking laws.

Many states have passed laws as part of their state code and/or amended their state constitutions to provide rights for victims of crimes. The states that have amended their constitutions have tried to ensure that 1) crime victims’ rights are protected in the same way that defendants’ rights are protected, 2) crime victims’ rights are a permanent part of the criminal justice system, and 3) courts have the power to enforce crime victims’ rights if they are violated. Many of these efforts are tailored for trafficking survivors or have historically been based on protections first extended to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, elder abuse, and labor exploitation. Some of these rights differ from the rights in the federal Crime Victims Rights Act. It is important for task forces to know how their state laws differ from the federal law.

Traffickers can be sued, have claims brought against them, be charged, and be prosecuted under both state and federal law. Typically, only state claims and charges are brought in state courts and federal criminal charges are only brought in federal courts; but both federal and state civil claims can be brought in federal courts. Local and federal task force partners should work together to make decisions on how to conduct investigations jointly and how to coordinate investigations and legal action. Some of these determinations may be based on domestic and international resources, political priorities and realities, the reach of state laws and federal laws, speediness in obtaining warrants, and investigatory and discovery capabilities, among other factors.

Related State Laws

Example: California Transparency in Supply Chains Act
The California Transparency in Supply Chains Act addresses slave labor and human trafficking in supply chains. The law requires these businesses to disclose information about their practices to eliminate slavery and human trafficking, because supply chains consider  human beings tangible goods for sale.  This Act focuses on the demand side of labor trafficking by creating accountability and auditing requirements for businesses.

It is important to know how to cross-reference state laws in several areas; for example, in the areas of mandatory reporting, confidentiality and privilege, child abuse, age of consent, prostitution, labor and employment, dependency, guardianship, criminal activity (assault,  domestic violence, drug trafficking, organized crime, sexual assault, etc.) and family law. It is important for task forces to know how related laws intersect with human trafficking cases, both to add support to an investigation and also to leverage additional resources for victims of crimes.


For additional information, visit the Resource Page for Chapter 1.4 Human Trafficking Laws.