Trafficking offenses related to forced labor or prostitution may result in a serious felony charge. According to the FBI, however, a prosecutor may first need to prove that an individual charged used threat, physical force or coercion to bring about a victim’s involuntary actions.
As a result of a media-fueled growing interest in trafficking, some Missouri business owners may find themselves under “community scrutiny.” Owners of beauty salons or massage spas, for example, might notice new customers using mobile devices to capture images of employees. This may possibly reflect an intent to prove a suspicion of unlawful practices taking place at a neighborhood business.
Prosecutors require reliable evidence to convict
Evidence supplied by private citizens may not contain sufficient detail to prove a business owner engaged in some form of forced labor or sex trafficking. Images or video footage captured with a hidden mobile device may also show signs of alteration. To convict a defendant, a prosecutor must prove to the jury — beyond a reasonable doubt — that a form of forced labor occurred against a victim’s will.
Actions or duties performed voluntarily may avoid prosecution
When individuals decide to perform services on a voluntary basis, a prosecutor may find it difficult to prove forced labor. Missouri labor law, however, considers a misuse of documents related to immigration as contributing to human trafficking, as noted by the National Conference of State Legislators.
Maintaining complete sets of employee documents and adhering to detailed record-keeping procedures may serve as evidence to defend against trafficking charges. A business owner’s ability to provide well-kept and reliable employee files may prove helpful in countering a prosecutor’s allegations that unlawful actions occurred.