OAKLAND — California Attorney General Rob Bonta today filed an amicus brief in the First District Court of Appeal supporting the right of a survivor of sex trafficking to receive restitution from her trafficker. The Superior Court found that because commercial sex proceeds are illegal, she was not entitled to restitution. The amicus brief argues that according to California's broad restitution statute, victims' rights under California's constitution, and Penal Code section 1202.4, subdivision (p), in cases of human trafficking, the victim is entitled to full restitution in this case. Human trafficking occurs when a person is deprived of their personal liberty and required, through force, fraud, or coercion, to provide labor or services. Whether they are forced to pick fruit, work in a sweat shop, or perform commercial sex acts, they are being deprived of their freedom and exploited for someone else's financial gain. This extreme form of exploitation entitles the victim to restitution from the person who exploited them.
“Human trafficking is a heinous crime and survivors deserve our support as they heal," said Attorney General Bonta. “Today's amicus brief does just that by supporting the right of survivors to receive restitution. This survivor was exploited and abused by her trafficker; it goes beyond reason to deny her restitution to which she is legally entitled. Denying recovery to a sex trafficking victim reinforces the stigma that these victims too often face in coming forward in the first place. The California Department of Justice will continue to do its part to combat human trafficking and protect California's communities."
In the brief filed today, Attorney General Bonta argues that the court misinterpreted Penal Code section 1202.4, subdivision (p), in denying her right to restitution. The statute does not distinguish between labor and sex trafficking. The brief also argues that denying restitution because of the “work” she was forced to perform implies that she is at fault or otherwise unworthy of being made whole, even though every aspect of her life and finances were controlled by the trafficker. This sort of victim-blaming causes further harm to survivors. It’s imperative that the restitution rights of trafficking victims be enforced so that they have a chance to recover from the devastating physical, mental, and financial impact of this extreme form of abuse.
A copy of Attorney General Bonta’s brief in support of the victim can be found here.
Fighting Human Trafficking
Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery where perpetrators profit from the control and exploitation of men, women, and children for sex or labor through force, fraud, or coercion. Human trafficking does not require movement across borders. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, there were more than 1,300 human trafficking cases reported in California in 2021 — more than any other state in the nation. In California, human trafficking is prevalent in the hospitality, commercial sex, domestic work, and construction industries. Victims of human trafficking are also found among migrant and seasonal agricultural workers, providers of residential care, and in California’s garment sector.
Through collaboration with federal, state, and local law enforcement partners and community organizations, Attorney General Bonta is committed to disrupting and dismantling human trafficking in California. Attorney General Bonta launched DOJ’s Human Trafficking and Sexual Predator Apprehension Teams (HT/SPAT) in June 2021. The teams — one covering Northern California and another covering Southern California — have taken significant action across the state to support law enforcement partners in disrupting and dismantling human trafficking and the criminal exploitation of children. California DOJ also serves as the lead agency on the San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force (SDHTTF), and leads the prosecutions of complex, multijurisdictional, and criminal human trafficking cases across the state. To date, the human trafficking task force teams have arrested approximately 627 traffickers and assisted or supported 647 victims in operations throughout the state including:
If you or someone you know is being forced to engage in any activity and cannot leave — whether it is commercial sex, housework, farm work, construction, factory, retail, or restaurant work, or more — you can get anonymous and confidential help 24 hours a day, seven days a week in more than 160 different languages. It is also important to remember that California law prohibits law enforcement authorities from asking individuals, including those who are reporting or are victims of potential crimes, about their immigration status, unless the information is necessary to certify the victim for a U visa (victim of crime visa) or T visa (victim of human trafficking visa). If you need help, you can reach out to local authorities and various organizations, including:
National Human Trafficking Hotline
The Victims of Crime Resource Center
The California Department of Justice's Victims' Services Unit
Resources such as emergency food and shelter, legal services, and health services can be found on your city or county websites. For those who have been the victim of a violent crime, the California Victim Compensation Board can help cover related bills and expenses.
As a result of Senate Bill 1193 of 2012 and subsequent legislation, California law requires specified businesses and other establishments — including hotels, motels, and bed and breakfast inns — to post a notice informing the public and survivors of human trafficking of telephone hotline numbers to seek help or report unlawful activity. These notices include much of the information provided above. Each mandated business is required to post a notice in English and Spanish and, depending on the county, businesses may be required to post a notice in a third language. Businesses or establishments that are required to post these notices do not need to pay for them. The notices are available for free on the California Department of Justice’s website in English, Spanish, and roughly two dozen other languages.