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An Analysis of Florida’s Laws Regarding Human Trafficking

Florida laws, like the Federal laws, have strict legislation on the books regarding Human Trafficking. Under Florida General Statutes 787.06 the Legislature finds that human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery. Victims of human trafficking are young children, teenagers, and adults. Thousands of victims are trafficked annually across international borders worldwide. Many of these victims are trafficked into this state. Victims of human trafficking also include citizens of the United States and those persons trafficked domestically within the borders of the United States. The Legislature finds that victims of human trafficking are subjected to force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labor.

Furthermore, in subsection (b) the Legislature finds that while many victims of human trafficking are forced to work in prostitution or the sexual entertainment industry, trafficking also occurs in forms of labor exploitation, such as domestic servitude, restaurant work, janitorial work, sweatshop factory work, and migrant agricultural work.

Additionally, in subsection (c) the Legislature finds that traffickers use various techniques to instill fear in victims and to keep them enslaved. Some traffickers keep their victims under lock and key. However, the most frequently used practices are less obvious techniques that include isolating victims from the public and family members; confiscating passports, visas, or other identification documents; using or threatening to use violence toward victims or their families; telling victims that they will be imprisoned or deported for immigration violations if they contact authorities; and controlling the victims’ funds by holding the money ostensibly for safekeeping.

Therefore in subsection (d) the intent of the Legislature is clear that the perpetrators of human trafficking be penalized for their illegal conduct and that the victims of trafficking be protected and assisted by this state and its agencies. In furtherance of this policy, it is the intent of the Legislature that the state Supreme Court, The Florida Bar, and relevant state agencies prepare and implement training programs in order that judges, attorneys, law enforcement personnel, investigators, and others are able to identify traffickers and victims of human trafficking and direct victims to appropriate agencies for assistance. It is the intent of the Legislature that the Department of Children and Families and other state agencies cooperate with other state and federal agencies to ensure that victims of human trafficking can access social services and benefits to alleviate their plight.

With the Florida Legislature clearly trying to protect the vulnerable parts of society, woman and children, through their tough stance on Human Trafficking in 787.06 and promote a safer State of Florida for all of its citizens, how are the decisions in Washington D.C. with their policy of allowing “coyotes” to traffic children and women across the United States Mexican Border, coinciding with Florida Law?

Law enforcement officers of the State of Florida take an oath to uphold the Laws of Florida. They are also charged with knowing the laws of Florida. With those two principles in mind, law enforcement officers have a duty and responsibility to arrest those, who break Florida law. Florida Statute clearly states that it is illegal for a person to transport, solicit, recruit, harbor, provide, entice, maintain, or obtain another person for the purpose of exploitation of that person. 787.06 (2) (a) (7) (d). The area of Florida General Statute 787.06 that is of major concern is the term “transport.”  The coyotes will transport the “children and women” across the U.S Mexican border and hand them over to “drivers.” The drivers are responsible for delivering the “women and children” to certain locations, where they believe they will meet with family or friends that are already established in the States throughout America.

Drivers of illegal aliens deliver the women and children to locations where they are told to take them, many times without knowledge of who are receiving the illegal aliens. Vehicles used in transporting women and children from the border throughout the Southeastern States, like Florida, will fit certain descriptions. The vehicles are general vans or big SUVS. The vehicles will be headed in certain directions and on certain routes, leading from the Mexican border. These Routes are main corridors that law enforcement officers have mapped out due to much exposure through the years in stopping this criminal activity of human trafficking. The drivers are generally males of Latin descendant with similar features. The drivers will likely be dressed in causal clothes. The driver usually travels at night or early morning and drives in an overly cautious manner. With these subjective characteristics in mind, what gives an officer the right to stop a suspected van or SUV, when they believe it contains illegal aliens and a “driver?”

The courts have reasoned that when a law enforcement officer suspects that an individual is involved in criminal activity, and his suspicion is founded upon reasonable inferences from specific and articulable facts, the officer is justified in seizing the suspect, even forcibly, for the purpose of conducting a brief investigation. Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, (1968). The touchstone for this analysis has always been the balancing of the government’s interest in pursuing legitimate law enforcement objectives, with the individual’s right to be free from arbitrary and unreasonable interference by law officers. See Terry v. Ohio. Ultimately, to pass constitutional scrutiny, an officer’s conduct need only be reasonable. See Michigan v. Summers, 452 U.S. 692 at 700 (1981).

The issue becomes, does law enforcement officers have the right under the U.S. and Florida Constitution to stop vehicles traveling on Florida State roads with the aforementioned characteristics? The courts have answered this issue in the affirmative. The Appellate Courts of Florida and the Florida Supreme Court have continuously held that law enforcement officers have the constitutional right to stop vehicles when there are articulable facts to believe that the “driver” is transporting illegal aliens in Florida. One of the leading cases on the subject isUnited States v. Cortez, 449 U.S. 411, 471-418, (1981).

The Cortez court set the standard of law that when the law enforcement officer has knowledge of facts and circumstances, at the time the officer observes the individual, like a “driver”, are sufficient to provide an articulable basis for founded suspicion that the individual, like a driver, is involved in the transportation of illegal aliens. In doing so, the Supreme Court emphasized that “when used by trained law enforcement officers, objective facts, meaningless to the untrained, can be combined with permissible deductions from such facts to form a legitimate basis for suspicion of a particular person and for action on that suspicion. See Cortez at 696.

Lastly, because Florida law is clear on what constitutes Human Trafficking; because U.S Law and Florida Law is clear on what constitutes a lawful stop and search by Law Enforcement Officers, who are charged with upholding the laws of Florida, does Federal Policy out of Washington D.C. provide immunity to those who “Human Traffic” woman and children in Florida? The answer is clearly No!

If you or a loved one is arrested, indicted or being detained on suspicion of Human Trafficking in Florida or in the Federal Courts, call West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney Andrew D. Stine, who has experience in defending Human Trafficking cases in Federal and State courts since 2005. Palm Beach Criminal lawyer, Andrew D. Stine understands that many “drivers” are unaware they are trafficking in humans and will fight vigorously to defend those accused in all Human Trafficking matters. Hire Stine or Do the Time!

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