What are the Different Types of Trafficking Laws?

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  • Written By: Pablo Garcia
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 11 March 2020
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Trafficking laws generally fall into three broad categories: persons, illegal drugs, and weapons. These laws exist in countries throughout the world, and are enforced internationally as well. In the US, both state and federal governments enact and enforce trafficking laws.

Federal laws in the US against human trafficking include forced prostitution through fraud or coercion. These crimes are usually committed against women and children in situations of vulnerability because of their geographic location or economic circumstances. The perpetrators obtain their victims through promises of jobs or a better life in another country or sometimes through outright kidnapping. Traffickers then sell the victims, and sometimes the buyers use the victims for organ harvesting. US law provides special immigration status for recovered victims of sexual trafficking, and the law requires shelter be given to juvenile victims.

Laws against human trafficking also encompass forced labor, debt bondage, and slavery. As with forced sex, the trafficking often involves luring victims with promises of jobs and a place to live in another region or country. Through coercion and physical abuse, traffickers force the victims to work without payment. Sometimes traffickers tell them they must first work off the debt owed for getting the job and the expense of transport to the new location. Migrant workers and the poor often fall victim to these crimes.


Drug trafficking laws target high-level drug enterprises that deal in large quantities of illegal substances. These substances are primarily cocaine, heroin, and marijuana. However, there are other substances like methamphetamines and LSD included as well, and the penalties for trafficking increase dramatically with the amount of the illegal substance involved. The penalties can range from a minimum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and millions of US Dollars (USD) in fines to a mandatory term of life imprisonment for a third trafficking conviction. The proceeds from drug trafficking are often used to buy illegal arms to protect the drug operation from competitors and law enforcement.

Countries around the world also have prohibitions against arms trafficking, sometimes referred to as “gun smuggling.” Arms trafficking laws prevent arms trading that is not sanctioned by law or the government. Illicit arms dealing often involves small or light weapons like handguns and automatic rifles up to shoulder held rocket launchers. These items are easily smuggled, traded and sold. Because of the ease with which weapons can be transported and sold, arms trafficking laws and enforcement efforts are heavily focused on border controls and protecting legal domestic arsenals.


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