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The Prosecution of State-Level Human Trafficking Cases in the United States

NCJ Number
Anti-Trafficking Review Volume: 6 Dated: 2016 Pages: 48-70
Date Published
23 pages

Guided by the perspective that prosecutors seek to avoid uncertainty when making decisions to pursue criminal prosecution, this study examined how human trafficking crimes are indicted under newly defined state laws.


In an effort to combat human trafficking, the federal government and all 50 states passed new laws that criminalize human trafficking and support the identification and prosecution of human trafficking perpetrators. Despite the passage of these laws, however, only a small number of human trafficking cases have been prosecuted in the last 15 years. In examining reasons for this, the current study used a sample of cases from 12 U.S. counties and interviews with police, prosecutors, and court personnel in examining the factors that influence the decision to prosecute in state courts crimes investigated as human trafficking. The findings of this research assist in explaining why so few human trafficking cases are prosecuted and why human trafficking suspects are rarely convicted of trafficking offenses. (publisher abstract modified) 25517

Date Published: January 1, 2016