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The Mann Act

The Mann Act of 1910 also known as the “White Slavery Act” prohibits moving people between states to facilitate sex crimes. The elements of a Mann Act violation are as follows: 1) transporting a person between states with knowledge 2) Intent for the person to commit acts of prostitution, or other criminal sexual activity, or makes overt acts in furtherance of such conduct. The maximum penalty for violating the Mann Act is 10 years in prison and a fine. The Mann Act was passed during a period of puritanical moral panic at the turn of the 20th century. In 1910 women had not yet even achieved the right to vote. The Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution, that gave women the right to vote was passed by both houses of congress in 1919. Homosexuality was also still criminalized and conflated with pedophilia. Society has seen tremendous progress in the areas of women’s rights and LGBT rights since 1910, however, the Mann Act is still federal law and may be prosecuted to punish sex workers and other people involved in human trafficking.

If you or someone you know has been accused of violating the Mann Act, call our offices today for a free consultation. Our New York criminal defense lawyers can help you fight these very serious charges.

The Mann Act was premised on the belief that all those who were employed in the sex trade were not employed willingly, and instead were enslaved. Remarkably, although the intent of the Mann Act was punish only those who recruited prostitutes and transported them across states, the Supreme Court affirmed the prosecution of people who were customers of prostitutes, willing sex workers who did not have any coercive measures taken to keep them in the sex trade, and even people who took their mistresses across state lines to have affairs. Technically, this conduct may still be prosecuted under the Mann act because adultery is still a crime in some states.

Examples of people who have fallen outside of the intended scope of the Mann Act, yet were still prosecuted, include: Men who have taken their mistress with them on vacation, Mormons who practice plural marriage who took their wives with them when they moved to a different state, and men who paid for a train ticket to see a prostitute in a different state.

The purpose and intent elements of the Mann Act make the statute vulnerable to strong fact-based defenses. Evidence that can tend to disprove Mann Act charges includes but is not limited to: Text messages and social media posts that disprove that the purpose of the interstate transportation was for prostitution, evidence that a courier did not know that the persons he was transporting were prostitutes, eyewitness testimony that sex crimes were not committed at the destination state, and that there was no attempt to commit them, and financial records proving that a person charged with a Mann Act violation was not in fact one who participated in the sex trade. Prostitutes who went with their pimps on a vacation, but, did not actually go on vacation for the purpose of engaging in prostitution could not be convicted of violating the Mann Act. This defense is humorously coined the “vacation defense”. Although consent is a defense to rape, it is not a defense to the Mann Act. Despite the Mann act prohibiting “white slavery” which implies involuntary servitude, there is no element of coercion or force that must be proven in order to convict someone of violating the Mann Act.

If you or someone you know has been accused of violating the Mann Act and is now facing significant prison time, call our offices today for a free consultation. Our New York Mann act criminal defense attorneys may be able to help you get your charges reduced or dismissed.

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