18 U.S. Code § 1591

18 U.S. Code § 1591 is the legislation associated with sex trafficking. We get it, legal jargon is hard to understand or just flat boring. However, this is the section of the law that is the driving force behind Guardian Group’s mission. Let us break it down in language that is a bit easier to digest…

Section 1591 States:

Whoever within the United States knowingly does these things to another person or benefits in any way from assisting, supporting, or facilitating these things happening to another person:

    • Recruits
    • Entices
    • Harbors
    • Transports
    • Provides
    • Obtains
    • Advertises
    • Patronizes
    • Solicits

The above actions are achieved by using any of these three:

    • Force – violence, threats
    • Fraud – false promises
    • Coercion – threats of serious harm of any kind (physical, financial, psychological, reputational)

That results in the person engaging in a sex act for the exchange of anything of value.

The exception to this is if the person is under the age of 18-years-old (children!) then force, fraud and coercion do not need to be proven.


This is sex trafficking of children or by force, fraud, or coercion.


What the vital language in this section of the law does not explicitly portray is the unfathomable and complex trauma associated with what these victims experience.


What does this look like?

Every perpetrator of section 1591 uses their own unique tactics and methods of carrying out this exploitation. Here are a few examples of what this could look like:

An underage high-school girl meets an older guy online. They start an online relationship. She is upset with her parents and expresses that frustration to him. He tells her he will take care of her, that she doesn’t need them, and she should run away. She does and moves in with him. Shortly after, he begins telling her she needs to start paying him back for the things he has given her (food, shelter, whatever else he has bought her). At this point her young heart has fallen in love with him, she is often scared, and it is in this moment that he begins to sell her for sex.

This is the sex trafficking of a child – force, fraud or coercion do not need to be proven in this scenario.

A nineteen-year-old college girl starts dating a guy. At one point during their brief relationship, she sends him a photo that is meant for his eyes only. Their relationship changes at one point and he tells her that she is going to start selling her body for money for him. He has become more aggressive and violent towards her, and he starts threatening to send that photo to her parents, her friends, her classmates and to post it on social media if she doesn’t do what he says. She does what he says out of fear.

This is sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion.

What is the punishment for this crime?

Per Section 1591 the punishment for violating this law is as follows…

  • If the victim is under the age of 14-years-old, then the perpetrator will receive no less than 15 years to life.
  • If the victim is between 14-17 then the punishment is 10 years to life

There is no need to prove that the defendant knew the victims age or not.

If someone attempts to obstruct or prevent the enforcement of this law that punishment is a prison term under 25 years.


Guardian Group exists to support law enforcement across the nation to stop perpetrators of 18 U.S. Code § 1591. It is our mission to prevent and disrupt the sex trafficking of women and children while enabling partners to identify victims and predators in the United States. We want to live in a world where no person, especially not a child is ever being sold for sex.


We are asking you to join us in this fight. In honor of the law that drives this mission would you consider joining us as a Guardian for $15.91 a month?


Your donation will lead to more true identifications of victims of this horrific crime. It will allow our team to focus on generating more lead packets for law enforcement which removes the hours of specialized research and analysis required in these cases and gives them intelligence they can quickly act upon.  It creates space for more sting support for law enforcement across the nation and expands our ability to provide vital training to those that will see this crime most often.

Join the fight today!