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Legal Information: South Carolina

Statutes: South Carolina

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Updated: 
December 8, 2020

16-3-2020. Trafficking in persons; penalties; minor victims; defenses.

(A) A person is guilty of trafficking in persons if he:

(1) recruits, entices, solicits, isolates, harbors, transports, provides, or obtains, or so attempts, a victim, knowing that the victim will be subjected to, or for the purposes of, sex trafficking, forced labor or services, involuntary servitude or debt bondage through any means or who benefits, financially or by receiving anything of value, from participation in a venture which has engaged in an act described in this subsection, is guilty of trafficking in persons;

(2) aids, abets, or conspires with another person to violate the criminal provisions of this section; or

(3) knowingly gives, agrees to give, or offers to give anything of value so that any person may engage in commercial sexual activity with another person when he knows that the other person is a victim of trafficking in persons.

(B) A person convicted of a violation of subsection (A) is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction:

(1) for a first offense, must be imprisoned not more than fifteen years;

(2) for a second offense, must be imprisoned not more than thirty years;

(3) for a third or subsequent offense, must be imprisoned not more than forty-five years.

(C) If the victim of an offense contained in this section is under the age of eighteen, the person convicted under this section is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, must be imprisoned not more than thirty years. For a second or subsequent offense, if the victim is under the age of eighteen, the person convicted under this section is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, must be imprisoned not more than forty-five years.

(D) A business owner who uses his business in a way that participates in a violation of this article, upon conviction, must be imprisoned for not more than ten years in addition to the penalties provided in this section for each violation.

(E) A plea of guilty or the legal equivalent entered pursuant to a provision of this article by an offender entitles the victim of trafficking in persons to all benefits, rights, and compensation granted pursuant to Section 16-3-1110.

(F) In a prosecution of a person who is a victim of trafficking in persons, it is an affirmative defense that he was under duress or coerced into committing the offenses for which he is subject to prosecution, if the offenses were committed as a direct result of, or incidental or related to, trafficking. A victim of trafficking in persons convicted of a violation of this article or prostitution may motion the court to vacate the conviction and expunge the record of the conviction. The court may grant the motion on a finding that the person’s participation in the offense was a direct result of being a victim.

(G) If the victim was a minor at the time of the offense, the victim of trafficking in persons may not be prosecuted in court pursuant to this article or a prostitution offense, if it is determined after investigation that the victim committed the offense as a direct result of, or incidental or related to, trafficking.

(H) The human trafficking specialized service providers must be certified by the Attorney General through criteria established by the Human Trafficking Task Force. The Attorney General, through the task force, must also establish necessary criteria for Human Trafficking Acute Crisis Care and Resource Centers to be established in the communities of South Carolina. Once the service providers are certified and the assessment centers are open, the information must be disseminated to the family court bench and bar as well as law enforcement to be utilized in carrying out the mandates of this statute. The court must determine the most appropriate way to provide specialized services to the juveniles to address the concerns relating to human trafficking.

(I) Evidence of the following facts or conditions do not constitute a defense in a prosecution for a violation of this article, nor does the evidence preclude a finding of a violation:

(1) the victim’s sexual history or history of commercial sexual activity, the specific instances of the victim’s sexual conduct, opinion evidence of the victim’s sexual conduct, and reputation evidence of the victim’s sexual conduct;

(2) the victim’s connection by blood or marriage to a defendant in the case or to anyone involved in the victim’s trafficking;

(3) the implied or express consent of a victim to acts which violate the provisions of this section do not constitute a defense to violations of this section;

(4) age of consent to sex, legal age of marriage, or other discretionary age; and

(5) mistake as to the victim’s age, even if the mistake is reasonable.(J) A person who violates the provisions of this section may be prosecuted by the State Grand Jury, pursuant to Section 14-7-1600, when a victim is trafficked in more than one county or a trafficker commits the offense of trafficking in persons in more than one county.