Human trafficking and human smuggling convictions require proof an individual engaged in a particular type of wrongful conduct. The two charges might appear similar, but differences between them may make it harder for a prosecutor to secure a conviction.
To convict on a human trafficking charge, a prosecutor must prove that the defendant exploited an individual to perform forced labor or services. According to the Texas Penal Code, trafficking requires the use of fraud, force or coercion to gain a benefit such as money or free labor. These elements generally determine whether trafficking occurred.
Human trafficking does not require performance of an illicit activity
The media often describes the actions involved in human trafficking as they relate to performing sexual services. Forced labor or service, however, may include legal activities such as working in a restaurant, bar or at a private residence.
Individuals operating legitimate businesses may face trafficking charges if an employee files an unpaid wages complaint. Hiring undocumented workers may result in an investigation into possible human trafficking violations.
Human smuggling does not require proof of force or coercion
A human smuggling charge generally does not require proof that an individual used fraud, force or coercion to gain a benefit. As described by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement website, human smuggling refers to helping individuals enter a country by providing false documents or assistance in evading immigration procedures.
Texas Penal Code Section 20.05 further defines human smuggling as assisting a foreign national to enter or stay in the U.S. illegally by providing transportation. This may involve an aircraft, boat, motor vehicle or other means. The individual providing the transportation may face charges if law enforcement alleges an intent to knowingly assist an undocumented passenger.