Texas Penal Code 20A.03 – Continuous Trafficking of Persons
WHAT IS CONTINUOUS TRAFFICKING OF PERSONS IN TEXAS?
Continuous human trafficking is trafficking one or more persons at least twice over a period of 30 days or more.
WHAT IS THE CONTINUOUS TRAFFICKING OF PERSONS LAW IN TEXAS?
Tex. Penal Code § 20A.03. CONTINUOUS TRAFFICKING OF PERSONS.
(a) A person commits an offense if, during a period that is 30 or more days in duration, the person engages two or more times in conduct that constitutes an offense under Section 20A.02 against one or more victims.
(b) If a jury is the trier of fact, members of the jury are not required to agree unanimously on which specific conduct engaged in by the defendant constituted an offense under Section 20A.02 or on which exact date the defendant engaged in that conduct. The jury must agree unanimously that the defendant, during a period that is 30 or more days in duration, engaged in conduct that constituted an offense under Section 20A.02.
(c) If the victim of an offense under Subsection (a) is the same victim as a victim of an offense under Section 20A.02, a defendant may not be convicted of the offense under Section 20A.02 in the same criminal action as the offense under Subsection (a), unless the offense under Section 20A.02:
(1) is charged in the alternative;
(2) occurred outside the period in which the offense alleged under Subsection (a) was committed; or
(3) is considered by the trier of fact to be a lesser included offense of the offense alleged under Subsection (a).
(d) A defendant may not be charged with more than one count under Subsection (a) if all of the conduct that constitutes an offense under Section 20A.02 is alleged to have been committed against the same victim.
(e) An offense under this section is a felony of the first degree, punishable by imprisonment in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for life or for any term of not more than 99 years or less than 25 years.
WHAT IS THE PENALTY CLASS FOR CONTINUOUS TRAFFICKING OF PERSONS IN TEXAS?
Continuous trafficking of persons is a first degree felony, with an increased minimum prison sentence of 25 years, and a maximum of 99 years or life.
WHAT IS THE PUNISHMENT RANGE FOR CONTINUOUS TRAFFICKING OF PERSONS IN TEXAS?
The punishment range for continuous trafficking of persons is 25 to 99 years or life in prison, and a maximum fine of $10,000.
- Does a person charged with continuous human trafficking face automatic life in prison in Texas? Yes, a conviction for continuous human trafficking carries an automatic life sentence in Texas if the person has been previously convicted of:
- Sexual Performance by a Child;
- Possession or Promotion of Child Pornography;
- Trafficking of persons, if the victim is under 18, and the trafficking was for sexual purposes;
- Obscenity, if the obscene visual material depicts a child under 18;
- Indecency with a Child
- Continuous Sexual Abuse of Young Child or Disabled Individual;
- Sexual Assault;
- Aggravated Sexual Assault;
- Prohibited Sexual Conduct;
- Burglary of a habitation, if the person intended to commit one of the listed offenses above during the burglary.
WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR CONTINUOUS TRAFFICKING OF PERSONS IN TEXAS?
A person charged with continuous trafficking of persons is not eligible for either type of community supervision (probation or deferred adjudication).
WHAT ARE THE DEFENSES TO CONTINUOUS TRAFFICKING OF PERSONS IN TEXAS?
The statute does not provide any affirmative defenses, but one may attempt to raise any of the justification defenses.
- Is it possible to be prosecuted for trafficking one’s own children in Texas? If a person’s conduct is prohibited by the statute, there is no defense for the relationship to the victim. Parents are not immunized in scenarios such as forced labor in sweatshops, and other egregious conduct such as compelling prostitution of one’s own child, but assigning household chores will not subject a parent to criminal charges.
In Ex parte Barrett, a couple was charged with continuous trafficking of children after they removed their four adopted children from school and forced them to work at the puppy mill on their property. The children were also beaten. The defendants challenged the constitutionality of the statute, but the appellate court upheld it as constitutional. Prohibiting this type of conduct will not interfere with ordinary parent-child relationships, and furthers the State’s legitimate interest in protecting children. Ex parte Barrett, 608 S.W.3d 80 (Tex. App.—Dallas, pet. ref’d).
WHAT IS THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS FOR CONTINUOUS TRAFFICKING OF PERSONS IN TEXAS?
There is no limitation period for continuous trafficking of persons, so one may be prosecuted any time after committing the offense.
CONTINUOUS TRAFFICKING OF PERSONS IN TEXAS
Continuous trafficking of persons prohibits trafficking one or more persons at least twice for a period of 30 days or longer. Texas law broadly defines trafficking to include merely harboring or transporting, regardless of the willingness of the victim. By criminalizing a range of conduct that is not ordinarily considered human trafficking, the legislature may have intended to significantly increase the sentences available for persons who commit sexual crimes, specifically involving children, by including them under the “trafficking umbrella.”
TEXAS CONTINUOUS TRAFFICKING OF PERSONS COURT CASES
The case law regarding continuous trafficking of persons in Texas shows the broad application of the law, and what types of conduct are punished.
- In Ritz v. State, the 44-year-old defendant met a 14-year-old girl online, and the two began a sexual relationship. The defendant knew her age, but continued picking her up from her parents’ house, and taking her places to have sex. He was convicted of continuous human trafficking by causing a child to engage in sexual assault.
On appeal, he argued this law was not intended to punish him, since he did not trade humans for sex or profit. The appellate court affirmed; while there was no evidence of organized crime, prostitution, or forced labor, transporting the victim to have sex with her fell under the scope of the law. 481 S.W.3d 383 (Tex. App.—Austin 2015, pet. dism’d).
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DRIVING WHILE INTOXICATED .15
Driving facts involved failing to maintain a single lane and speeding. Client refused breath test and forced law enforcement to obtain search warrant for blood. Blood test result was not used after challenge from Defense, and State waived and abandoned charge.
DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Client was a college student, worried about the collateral consequences of an alcohol offense. After negotiation and review of the traffic stop, the case was dismissed. Client received no criminal conviction. The charge was later expunged and deleted from client’s record.
DRIVING WHILE INTOXICATED .15+
Client was involved in minor accident. Client was at fault in accident. A young executive, client was concerned that a criminal conviction for DWI would result in termination. After review of the traffic stop, it was clear the officer lacked probable cause for arrest. State eventually dismissed DWI charge. Client received no criminal conviction.
Client, a military veteran, was facing up to one year in jail. State could not prove intoxication by alcohol, and was prepared to proceed on loss of use by marijuana. After challenging the State to prove that marijuana was ingested at or near time of driving, and that marijuana impaired client’s driving, the State dismissed the case on the day of trial.
DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Driving facts involved a false claim by police that taillight was out. After challenging the reasonable suspicion for the traffic stop, the State was forced to dismiss the case when video did not match police report. Client has since expunged arrest, and has no criminal record.
DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Client is a public school teacher and faced immediate termination upon conviction. The facts of the case were bad. State was unwilling to budge in negotiation, and matter was set for trial – the last shot at avoiding a conviction and preserving client’s livelihood. State was forced to dismiss on day of trial. Client has no criminal record, and has since expunged the DWI arrest.
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