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New York Sex Trafficking Charges

By Spodek Law Group | October 18, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 19, 2023)

Last Updated on: 19th October 2023, 07:51 pm


New York Sex Trafficking Charges – A Complex and Widespread Problem

Sex trafficking is a serious issue in New York, with over 1200 victims identified in 2018 alone according to a state task force report[1]. Both state and federal law enforcement agencies in New York actively investigate and prosecute sex trafficking crimes. However, the legal landscape is complex, with overlapping state and federal laws, multiple investigating agencies, and legal defenses to be aware of. This article provides an overview of New York sex trafficking laws, charges, investigations, defenses and penalties.

The Prevalence of Sex Trafficking in New York

New York has a significant sex trafficking problem. The 2018 report by the New York State Interagency Task Force on Human Trafficking identified 1252 victims just in that year[1]. Key statistics from the report:

  • 64% of confirmed victims were trafficked for sex
  • 20% were victims of both sex and labor trafficking
  • 43% of victims were from New York City
  • 40% were from upstate New York
  • 17% were from the metro area (Westchester, Rockland etc)

Both state and federal prosecutors have been more aggressively charging sex trafficking crimes in recent years. Local district attorneys, the state attorney general’s office and federal prosecutors like the US Attorney’s Office all play a role.

Investigations Into Sex Trafficking

Sex trafficking investigations in New York are conducted by a wide range of agencies:

  • New York State Police
  • New York City Police Department
  • Federal agencies like the FBI and Homeland Security Investigations
  • The New York State Attorney General’s Office through an upstate task force[4]

Sometimes state investigations end up being prosecuted federally if there is interstate conduct involved. Other times, federal investigations lead to state charges. The jurisdiction often depends on interstate transportation for prostitution purposes.

New York Sex Trafficking Charges

There are two main sex trafficking offenses defined in Article 230 of the New York Penal Law:

Sex Trafficking (PL 230.34)

This is a Class B violent felony punishable by 5-25 years in prison. It requires intentionally advancing or profiting from prostitution, and:

  • Impairing someone’s judgement by providing drugs or controlled substances
  • Performing any act to harm the victim’s health, safety or immigration status

Sex Trafficking of a Child (PL 230.34-a)

This law passed in 2018. It makes it a crime for a person over 21 to intentionally advance or profit from prostitution of someone under 18. It carries the same 5-25 year penalty.

Prosecutors can charge both offenses if the conduct satisfies the elements of each.

Defenses to New York Sex Trafficking Charges

The sex trafficking laws contain two statutory defenses[4]:

  • Taking someone’s passport to correct immigration records is not illegal
  • Making threats to induce reasonable action to right a wrong is not illegal

These defenses are limited but can apply in certain cases. A knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer can assess if they may apply.

Federal Sex Trafficking Laws

The federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) also prohibits sex trafficking and carries severe penalties. Federal charges may apply when there is interstate conduct involved.

Examples of Sex Trafficking Prosecutions in New York

Some recent cases include:

  • PSNY v. Arthur Dawson in NY County, where a man was charged with trafficking teenagers in the Bronx[2].
  • New York v. Abiodun Adeleke in Suffolk County, involving a sex trafficking ring from 2014-2018. Adeleke was convicted on multiple counts[4].

These cases demonstrate both the severity of the problem and how aggressively prosecutors are now charging these offenses in New York.

The Complexities of Sex Trafficking Cases

As we have seen, sex trafficking investigations and prosecutions in New York are complex. Multiple agencies at both the state and federal level may get involved. Prosecutors have an array of statutes they can use, with serious penalties. Defendants also have some potential defenses.

Experienced criminal defense counsel is essential when facing sex trafficking allegations. An attorney well-versed in both federal and New York law can properly investigate the case, identify defenses and form an aggressive defense strategy. With such high stakes, obtaining experienced legal representation is critical.


Sex trafficking has become a major focus for law enforcement in New York. With cooperation between agencies and more aggressive prosecution, traffickers are facing serious felony charges from both state and federal prosecutors. The legal landscape is complex but defenses are possible in some cases. Anyone facing such allegations needs knowledgeable counsel to protect their rights and future.

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