Colorado Child Trafficking Law Different Than Those of Other States

Stephanie Stout April 29, 2015

An 18 year old thought he had a good idea when he met a 17-year-old girl at a rave. Unfortunately, his business model involved placing internet ads for massage services, and sending the girl out to have sex with the respondents. As the result of a police sting operation, he was charged with several felony sex crimes.

He was acquitted on appeal of the child trafficking charges after the court in People v. Cardenas reviewed the definitions of trafficking and found the language of the Colorado law on child trafficking was different than almost every other similar law in the country, both state and federal.

Business model for prostitution

The defendant conceived the internet massage service plan at the rave and proposed that the victim, a 17-year-old girl be his partner. The girl agreed, even though the defendant told her respondents would be expecting sex, and coached her to talk dirty to them.

The victim made arrangements to meet the callers; a third person drove her to the locations where she had sex with them. She handed over the money to her partner, the defendant, who gave her a cut. The girl brought over her 18-year-old friend, she was recruited to join the business, and had sex with several customers as well. Later she led the police to the defendant, his partner, and others in the criminal scheme.

Defendant did not sell, barter, exchange, or lease the victim

The Colorado Appeals Court reviewed the history of child trafficking and the black market, baby bartering by parents, and the prohibition against slavery in the U.S. Constitution. The court then used a legal dictionary to analyze the common meaning of the words sale, exchange, barter, or lease, and concluded that the Colorado child trafficking law does not prohibit the sale of a child's services.

The defendant's internet ad promised that the victim would provide a service of massage, not that the customers would possess her in any way. There was no evidence that the defendant transferred physical or legal custody of children to others for money, as prohibited by the Colorado law against child trafficking.

Colorado law and its history is unusual

A survey of the child trafficking laws around the United States, and comparison of them revealed that the language used in the Colorado statute is unusual. The federal law and over 40 other state statutes prohibit a person from recruiting, inducing, enticing, soliciting or transporting a child for sexual purposes.

The history of the law in Colorado shows that its purpose was to prohibit the transfer of physical or legal custody of children to others for money, on a temporary or permanent basis. These elements of the crime have not changed in 37 years, and, as the court said, if the legislature meant to include services in the prohibition against trafficking in children, it would have done so, as it did in the human trafficking law.

Although the defendant in this case was convicted of other sexual crimes, the court agreed that his actions did not amount to child trafficking, and he was acquitted of that charge.

Even a charge of a sexual crime can result in severe consequences, and it is important to contact an attorney who has experience in criminal cases and familiarity with Colorado law. Analysis of each term and element in the law is necessary to make sure the government proves that the evidence conforms to the crime charged.