Child Sex Trafficking Charges

If you are facing a sex trafficking of children charge, hiring a skilled and experienced defense attorney can be the difference between a favorable outcome and a devastating one. 


Josh Kolsrud can help you understand your charges, build a strong defense, negotiate with the prosecution, and protect your rights in court.

❗During Josh’s 14 years as a state, international, and federal prosecutor, he has handled over 3,500 cases and over 100 jury trials from accusations to verdict. Josh has extensive experience prosecuting sex trafficking defendants internationally in the Republic of Palau, and as the Senior Trial Attorney for Coconino County.


Josh has also taught prosecutors and their staff how to prosecute sex trafficking cases at the annual prosecutor’s conference in Arizona (APAAC). This fact gives Josh and his team a winning edge because they know what to look for and the tactics that the prosecution might try. Rest assured, we will tirelessly defend your rights and protect your freedom throughout the legal process.


We have a deep understanding of federal laws and can provide the expert guidance you need to build a strong defense and achieve the best possible outcome in your case.


Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about how we can help you.

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18 U.S. Code § 1591 - Sex Trafficking of Children

18 U.S. Code § 1591, which deals with sex trafficking of children or by force, fraud, or coercion, is a particularly challenging area of law.


This article aims to provide an in-depth understanding of the topic and address common questions and concerns.


According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, Arizona ranks among the top 15 states for reported human trafficking cases. This statistic illustrates how prevalent human trafficking is in Arizona and throughout the country. 


Whether you're in Arizona or any part of the U.S., understanding the details of this law and its interaction with state legislation is crucial if faced with these charges.

sex trafficking

Understanding 18 U.S. Code § 1591: An Overview

18 U.S. Code § 1591 deals with the federal crime of sex trafficking involving minors or the use of force, fraud, or coercion. This federal law aims to protect victims of sex trafficking by imposing harsh penalties on those who engage in such crimes.


Under the statute, individuals who knowingly recruit, entice, harbor, transport, provide, obtain, maintain, patronize, or solicit a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act can face prosecution.


A "commercial sex act" is defined as any sex act in which any person gives or receives anything of value.


Components 18 U.S. Code § 1591 Charge: Force, Fraud, and Coercion

To secure a conviction under 18 U.S. Code § 1591, the prosecution must prove the following several elements: 

  • First, they must establish that the defendant knowingly participated in a sex trafficking scheme.
  • Additionally, the prosecution must show that the defendant used force, fraud, or coercion to compel the victim into engaging in a commercial sex act or that the victim was under 18.

Force, fraud, or coercion can take various forms in sex trafficking cases, each presenting distinct challenges for the defense.


Let's delve deeper into these three elements with scenario examples:

  • 1


    In sex trafficking cases, force refers to using physical violence, threats of violence, or confinement to compel victims into engaging in commercial sex.


    Example: Consider a scenario where a trafficker physically assaults a victim, inflicting harm and using the fear of further violence to maintain control. The victim's compliance is driven by a genuine fear for their safety and well-being.

  • 2


    Fraudulent tactics are frequently employed by traffickers to deceive victims and manipulate them into sexual exploitation.


    Example: For instance, imagine a scenario where a trafficker promises a victim a lucrative job opportunity, such as modeling or acting, only to exploit them in the commercial sex industry. The victim, lured by the false promises of a better future, unknowingly falls into the trap of sex trafficking.

  • 3


    Coercion involves using psychological manipulation, threats, or the abuse of power to coerce individuals into engaging in commercial sex acts against their will.


    Example: Let's consider a scenario where a trafficker targets a vulnerable individual with a history of substance abuse. The trafficker exploits their addiction, withholding drugs or threatening to expose their drug use unless they comply with engaging in commercial sex acts..

Age of Consent and Its Impact on Sex Trafficking Prosecutions

The age of consent in Arizona is 18, as outlined in Arizona Revised Statute (ARS) § 13-1405. This age requirement directly impacts 18 U.S. Code § 1591 prosecutions.


If the victim involved in the sex trafficking case is under 18, the defendant can be charged regardless of whether force, fraud, or coercion was used.


It's important to note that claiming ignorance of the victim's age is not a viable defense under this federal law.

Potential Penalties under 18 U.S. Code § 1591

The penalties for a conviction under 18 U.S. Code § 1591 can be severe.


  • If the victim is under 14, the offender can face a sentence of 15 years to life in prison.
  • If the victim is between 14 and 17, the sentence can range from 10 years to life. 

The Intersection of Federal and Arizona State Law on Sex Trafficking

While 18 U.S. Code § 1591 is a federal law, Arizona also has its own laws against sex trafficking. ARS § 13-3212 criminalizes child sex trafficking, and ARS § 13-1307 criminalizes adult sex trafficking.


These state laws work with federal legislation to prosecute sex trafficking offenders. Depending on the case's specifics, individuals can be charged under state law, federal law, or both.


Arizona state laws align with federal laws in criminalizing sex trafficking. The state also has laws that help protect victims and provide them with resources, such as establishing victims' right to civil remedies.


These state laws work with federal laws to offer a comprehensive legal response to sex trafficking.

Defenses to Charges under 18 U.S. Code § 1591

One of the most common defenses is challenging the prosecution's evidence on the elements of force, fraud, or coercion. For instance, if the prosecution cannot conclusively demonstrate that the defendant used force, fraud, or coercion to compel the victim into a commercial sex act, the case may not meet the criteria for a conviction under this law.


Other potential defenses may include arguing that the defendant was not aware of the victim's age or that the defendant did not knowingly participate in a sex trafficking scheme.

child sex trafficking

The Case Stages of Being Charged with Sex Trafficking of a Child

The case stages of being charged with the sex trafficking of a child involve a complex legal process that requires careful navigation. Understanding these stages is crucial for individuals facing such charges and their defense attorneys.


The following is the typical progression of a sex trafficking case involving a child.


  • Investigation: The first stage begins with the investigation conducted by law enforcement agencies. This phase involves gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and identifying potential victims and perpetrators. During the investigation, law enforcement may utilize various techniques such as surveillance, undercover operations, and digital forensics to build a case. It is essential for defense attorneys to closely examine the investigation process, ensuring that the defendant's rights are upheld and that any potential misconduct or violation of protocols is identified.


  • Arrest and Charges: If the investigation yields sufficient evidence, the next stage involves the arrest of the individual suspected of sex trafficking of a child. The defendant may be taken into custody or issued an arrest warrant.


  • Formal charges: Will be filed following the arrest, outlining the specific allegations against the accused.

A successful defense attorney must scrutinize the charges and evidence, identify weaknesses or inconsistencies, and formulate a strategic defense approach.


This may involve challenging the sufficiency of the evidence, questioning the credibility of witnesses, or exploring potential defenses based on the case's specific circumstances.


Navigating the case stages of being charged with sex trafficking of a child requires a comprehensive understanding of federal and state laws and a meticulous examination of the evidence and procedures followed by law enforcement. 

sex trafficking victims

Rights of Victims under 18 U.S. Code § 1591

18 U.S. Code § 1591 punishes offenders and provides rights to victims. Victims have the right to restitution from the offender and access to services under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.


They are also protected from deportation if they are non-citizens trafficked into the U.S. Arizona law, such as ARS § 13-1309, which offers additional protections and resources for victims.


Civil Actions for Victims of Sex Trafficking in Arizona

In addition to the criminal penalties imposed on offenders, victims of sex trafficking in Arizona have the right to seek civil remedies.


This can include damages for physical and psychological harm, reimbursement of the value of the victim's labor, and punitive damages. Federal law also provides victims with the right to restitution from convicted offenders.

A Defense Attorney is Essential When Facing Sex Trafficking Charges

Sex trafficking is a serious crime with severe penalties under Arizona and federal law. As an experienced federal criminal defense attorney at the Kolsrud Law Office, Josh Kolsrud is committed to providing a robust defense for individuals facing these serious charges.


Understanding the complexities of these laws and the rights of both the accused and the victims is crucial. Give us a call immediately if you or a loved one is facing allegations of sex trafficking charges.

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An award-winning criminal defense attorney Since 2006

Why Choose Josh Kolsrud

With over 100 trials to his name, and years of experience as a state and federal prosecutor, Josh understands the law, the legal process, and your rights. Josh is also committed to representing every client with utmost integrity and dedication



Josh has prosecuted major crimes on the state and federal level, led a successful anti-human sex trafficking operation that saved lives, and argued before countless juries and justices for his clients



Josh is an expert in both Arizona and federal criminal law, and is ready to put that expertise to work for you.



As a prosecutor, Josh saw far too many defendants lose their livelihood due to poor representation. Josh will always give every client his complete attention and effort

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