Engage in Open Charge Selection


Prosecuting Image Exploitation (2015) [PDF 387KB], an article from AEquitas, covers various examples of image exploitation crimes that can be charged against an offender that are closely related to HT, such as sexting, revenge porn, stalking, cyberstalking, cyber harassment, video voyeurism, invasion of privacy, child pornography, blackmail, and extortion.

The prosecutor should engage in open charge selection and not limit the matter to human trafficking-related offenses alone. Charge selection concerns how you choose among provable charges, not how you decide if a charge itself is supported by the evidence. To the degree you have evidentiary issues (such as the victim's credibility or state of mind), you may be inclined to include a safety-net charge to ensure the offender is convicted of at least one felony.

In the end, each count in the indictment must "carry its own weight" in the case; that is, each count must create a tactical or strategic advantage for the prosecution. Just because the elements of an offense might meet the facts adduced during the investigation, it is not enough to justify the presence of that offense in the charging instrument.

Examples of proper "charge advantages" include:

  • Helping to establish the admissibility of key evidence
  • Overcoming potential procedural bars, such as the statute of limitations
  • Supporting the joinder of different defendants or charges within a single proceeding
  • Avoiding compromise verdicts or ensuring the felonization of the defendants with "safety-net" charges (i.e., the inclusion of less serious but easier to prove violations)
  • Increasing the ultimate sentence of the defendant or the availability of other remedies post-trial

Case Example: Louisiana Motel Owner Pleads Guilty in Sex Trafficking Case, 7-1-15 motel owner pled guilty in connection with a sex trafficking operation that utilized his motel for prostitution. The defendant admitted to knowingly profiting from the trafficking of multiple victims.


For additional information and tools, visit the Resource page for 5.5 Strategies for Prosecution and Law Enforcement.