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Sex Trafficking Charges in Phoenix AZ

Posted on November 9, 2023 in
Human Sex Trafficking in Arizona

Arizona is one of the harshest, if not the harshest State when it comes to prosecuting sex trafficking cases. Partly the result of government grants, partly the result of strong lobbying efforts, and partly the result of a push by the media, sex trafficking now a priority of law enforcement.

If you follow the news, you have probably noticed an increasing number of sex-related, human trafficking arrests being reported as Phoenix law enforcement has stepped up enforcement of Arizona’s sex trafficking laws. Just recently, Arizona made national headlines when announcing they had arrested more than 30 individuals on human trafficking charges.  Under Arizona’s harsh sex trafficking laws, those facing human trafficking charges are looking at possibly decades behind bars. 

What is Sex Trafficking in Arizona?

Trafficking is a crime related to human labor trafficking and other forms of human trafficking. In general, “trafficking” is to entice, recruit, harbor, provide, transport, or otherwise obtain another person by deception, coercion, or force. According to Arizona Revised Statute A.R.S. 13-1308, it is unlawful for a person to either:

  • Knowingly traffic another person with the intent to or knowledge that the other person will be subject to forced labor or services
  • Knowingly benefit, financially or by receiving anything of value, from participation in a venture that has engaged in an act of human trafficking

Sex Trafficking is defined similarly: To recruit, entice, harbor, transport, provide or obtain by any means another person with the intent of causing the other person to engage in prostitution by force, fraud, or coercion. If a person is under the age of eighteen, it is illegal to entice, harbor, transport, provide, or obtain by any means that person with the intent of causing that person to engage in prostitution.

The two primary uses of forced labor tend to be in drug trafficking (either as mules or assisting in the manufacturing and distribution) and sex trafficking (prostitution, pornography). The labor is forced when the person is threatened, restrained, or actually harmed. Restraint is also possible where the “employer” threatens to use the legal system (think in terms of immigration, even family law through threats over marriage, property or children).

What are the Penalties for Human Trafficking and Sex Trafficking in Arizona?

Penalties and prison sentences for human traffickers are harsh. Human Trafficking is a Class 2 Felony in Arizona. If convicted, even a first offense, you could receive up to 12.5 years in prison and receive a fine of up to $150, 000 plus surcharges.  You could also face forfeiture of your property including your vehicles and home.  

But if we are speaking of Sex Trafficking involving minors, the penalties are substantially worse:

Depending on which part of the law you are prosecuted, the law requires you receive a mandatory prison term of 10-24 years, 7-21 years, or 13-27 in prison.  Please note the operative word is “shall serve.”  The judge has NO discretion. You will go to prison. 

Any additional sentence MUST be consecutive to any other sentence. (If convicted of multiple crimes, it means your prison term adds up the first sentence PLUS the second sentence, etc…) In most cases, the accused accepts a plea bargain to a lengthy prison term followed by probation.  As the conviction is a sex crime, it means registering as a sex offender and abiding by lifetime probation with sex terms and conditions.  It is very restrictive. Even if your children were not the victims, the probation terms can prohibit contact with any children: including your own children and grandchildren. It means no computer usage without permission. It means you may be monitored by GPS and limited as to where you can live and where and when you can travel. 

Penalties for “Johns” in Sex Trafficking Cases

The law used to go a little easier on “Johns” than it did on sex traffickers, but in an effort to reduce sex trafficking in Arizona by cutting off the demand, the law now may charge “Johns” with a Class 2 Felony. 

  • The recently revised statute added the language “or should have known” to the section of the existing statute regarding a john who engages in prostitution with a minor who is fifteen, sixteen or seventeen. 
  • The law now punishes anyone who knew “or should have known” the prostitution was a minor. As a result, they are facing prosecution for Class 2 Felonies. In addition to the sex trafficking charges, the person will likely face charges of sexual conduct or molestation of a minor

With the change in the law, If you were the beneficiary of the prostitution, (ie, the “john”), you are facing the same level of penalties as those who actually trafficked the individuals. In other words, the “John” is legally in the same position as the trafficker. At the moment, prosecutors do tend to give a little leeway if you were only a “John.” But considering that leeway is still normally a felony with sex terms and conditions, the penalties are still outrageously harsh.

AZ Human Sex Trafficking Charges Explained

In the video, Howard Snader, an experienced sex crimes attorney in Phoenix discussed the accusations of a sex offender or human trafficker in Arizona, according to legislation. Additionally, he defines human trafficking in detail and describes the possible outcomes for someone accused of the act.


Like the television show, “To Catch a Predator,” officers may pose as minors. In most of these cases, officers are in fact the person emailing, chatting, or actually meeting with the suspect.   


In my experience, I have defended many individuals prosecuted for sex crimes involving a minor where the minor claimed to be an adult or looked like an adult. In Arizona, if the victim is an actual minor, they are a minor. It is not a legal defense that they lied about their age. It may be a mitigating factor in sentencing, but it is not a defense to the crime charged. 

Phoenix Sex Trafficking Attorney

If you have been charged with sex trafficking in Phoenix you need an expert criminal defense attorney who has helped hundreds of individuals with similar charges over the past 30 years.  Howard Snader has spent 30 years defending the rights and freedom of people like you. We want to help. Call us today.

Human sex trafficking charges are no joke. If you have been charged with human trafficking in Arizona, or you are a “John” who was caught up in a sex trafficking sting, you need the assistance of an experienced, expert Phoenix criminal defense attorney

The Snader Law Group is well known for handling the toughest sex-related charges and for producing the best possible outcomes for our clients. Mr. Snader has personally helped hundreds of individuals with similar charges over the past 30 years.  If you want to maximize your chances of avoiding a felony, avoiding lengthy incarceration, and registration as a sex offender, please contact the Snader Law Group for a free case review.