Involuntary Servitude, often referred to as forced labor or slave labor, is a serious crime and carries harsh penalties with a conviction.
What is the legal definition of Involuntary Servitude?
Involuntary servitude is controlled by a combination of 5 statutes: NRS 200.463, .4631, .464, .465, and .466.
NRS 200.463 defines Involuntary Servitude and provides the possible penalties for a conviction:
- A person who knowingly subjects, or attempts to subject, another person to forced labor or services by::
- Causing or threatening to cause physical harm to any person;
- Physically restraining or threatening to physically restrain any person;
- Abusing or threatening to abuse the low or legal process;
- Knowingly destroying, concealing, removing, confiscating or possessing any actual or purported passport or other immigration document, or any other actual or purported government identification document, of the person;
- Extortion; or
- Causing or threatening to cause financial harm to any person,
- Is guilty of holding a person in involuntary servitude.
- Unless a greater penalty is provided in NRS 200.4631, a person who is found guilty of holding a person in involuntary servitude is guilty of a category B felony and shall be punished:
- Where the victim suffers substantial bodily harm while held in involuntary servitude or in attempted escape or escape therefrom, by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 7 years and a maximum term of not more than 20 years, and may be further punished by a fine of not more than $50,000.00
- Where the victim suffers no substantial bodily harm while held in involuntary servitude, by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 5 years and a maximum term of not more than 20 years, and may be further punished by a fine of not more than $50,000.00.
NRS 200.4631 further defines the crime and penalty for involuntary servitude of a minor.
- A person who has physical custody of a minor, allows a minor to reside in his or her residence, is in position of authority of a minor or provides care for any length of time to a minor and who knowingly:
- Obtains labor or services from the minor by causing or threatening to cause serious harm to the minor or by engaging in a pattern of conduct that results in physical injury to the minor, sexual abuse of the minor or sexual assault of the minor pursuant to NRS 200. 366; or
- Benefits, financially or by receiving anything of value other than sexual gratification from the labor or services obtained by the conduct specified in paragraph (a.),
- Is guilty of holding a minor in involuntary servitude.
- A person who is found guilty of holding a minor in involuntary servitude is guilty of a category A felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for life with the possibility of parole, with eligibility for parole beginning when a minimum of 15 years has been served, and may be further punished by a fine of at least $50,000.00.
- Consent of the victim to the performance of any labor or services is not a valid defense to a prosecution conducted pursuant to this section.
- Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit a parent or guardian of a child from requiring his or her child to perform common household chores under the threat of the reasonable exercise of discipline by the parent or guardian of the child.
- For the purposes of this section:
- “Physical injury” includes, without limitation:
- A sprain or dislocation;
- Damage to the cartilage;
- A fracture of a bone or the skull;
- An injury causing an intracranial hemorrhage or injury to another internal organ;
- Permanent or temporary disfigurement, including, without limitation, a burn, scalding, cut, laceration, puncture or bite; or
- “Serious harm” means any harm, whether physical or nonphysical, including, without limitation, psychological, financial or reputational harm, that is sufficiently serious, under the circumstances, to compel a reasonable person of the same background and in the same circumstances and the victim to perform or to continue to provide labor or services to avoid incurring that harm.
- “Sexual abuse” includes acts upon a child constituting:
- Lewdness with a child pursuant to NRS 201.230;
- Sado-masochistic abuse pursuant to NRS 201.262;
- Sexual assault pursuant to NRS 200.366;
- Open or gross lewdness pursuant to NRS 201. 210; and
- Mutilation of the genitalia of a female child, aiding, abetting, or encouraging or participating in the mutilation of the genitalia of a female child, or removal of a female child from this State for the purpose of mutilating the genitalia of the child pursuant to NRS 200.5083.
NRS 200.464 relates to the recruitment and providing of another person to be held in involuntary servitude as well as the benefiting from a person being held in involuntary servitude:
A person who:
- Recruits, entices, harbors, transports, provides or obtains by any means, or attempts to recruit, entice, harbor, transport, provide or obtains by any means, another person, intending or knowing that the person will be held in involuntary servitude; or
- Benefits, financially or by receiving anything of value, from participating in a violation of NRS 200.463 or 200.4631,
- Is guilty of a category B felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 1 year and a maximum term of not more than 15 years, and may be further punished by a fine of not more than $50,000.00.
NRS 200.465 relates to assuming rights over another person, purchase or sale of another person:
A person who:
- Assumes or attempts to assume rights of ownership over another person;
- Sells or attempts to sell a person to another;
- Receives money or anything of value in consideration of placing a person in the custody or under the control of another;
- Buys or attempts to buy a person;
- Except as other provided in chapter 127 or NRS, pays money or delivers anything of value to another in consideration of having a person placed in his or her custody or under his or her power or control; or
- Knowingly aids or assists in any manner a person who violates any provision of this section,
- Is guilty of a category B felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 5 years and maximum term of not more than 20 years, and may be further punished by a fine of not more than $50,000.00.
NRS 200.466 relates to the power of the court to order restitution for violations of 200.463, .464, or .465:
- In addition to any other penalty, the court may order a person convicted of a violation of any provision of NRS 200.463, 200.464, or 200.465 to pay restitution to the victim as provided in subsection 2.
- Restitution ordered pursuant to this section may include, without limitation:
- The cost of medical and psychological treatment, including, without limitation, physical and occupational therapy and rehabilitation;
- The cost of transportation, temporary housing and child care;
- The return of property, the cost of repairing damaged property, the cost of repairing damaged property or the full value of the property if it is destroyed or damaged beyond repair;
- Expenses incurred by a victim in relocating away from the defendant or his or her associates, if the expenses are verified by law enforcement to be necessary for the personal safety of the victim;
- The cost of repatriation of the victim to his or her home country, if applicable; and
- Any and all other losses suffered by the victim as a result of the violation of any provision of NRS 200.463, 200.464, or 200.465.
- The return of the victim to his or her home country or other absence of the victim from the jurisdiction does not prevent the victim from receiving restitution.
- As used in this section, “victim” means any person:
- Against whom a violation of any provision of NRS 200.463, 200.464, or 200.465 has been committed; or
- Who is the surviving child of such a person.
That is a lot of information, what does it all mean?
It is a lot of information. The easiest way to work through the statutes is to start with the first and go through them individually.
NRS 200.463 specifically defines involuntary servitude as forcing, or attempting to force, someone to work by means of:
- Physical harm or the threat of physical harm,
- Physical restraint or the threat of physical restraint,
- Abuse, or threat to abuse, the legal process or system,
- Destruction, removal, confiscation, or concealment of the victim’s passport or other immigration documents,
- Destruction, removal, confiscation, or concealment of the victim’s government issued identification documents,
- Extortion, or
- Causing, or threat to cause financial harm to the victim.
Please Note: Many cases of involuntary servitude relate to undocumented workers, or illegal aliens. As a result, many victims fear reporting the crime for fear of alerting officials to their status as illegal aliens.
The next statute, NRS 200.4631 identifies the more specific crime of involuntary servitude of a minor. All of the conduct that defines involuntary servitude of an adult applies to the involuntary servitude of a minor. However, there are some differences. In order to be guilty of the Involuntary Servitude of a Minor:
- You must hold a position of authority over the minor:
- Because the minor resides at your residence; or
- You provide care for any length of time; or
- You are simply in a position of authority over the minor.
- You must knowingly obtain labor or other services from the minor through:
- Harm or threat of harm to the minor;
- Engaging in a pattern of conduct that results in physical harm to the minor;
- Engaging in a pattern of conduct that results in sexual abuse or sexual assault to the minor.
- You must intend to benefit from the labor in services in some manner.
Please Note: Involuntary Servitude of a Minor is very similar to the Involuntary Servitude of an adult. The differences exist because of the differences in how adults and minors can be manipulated into action.
Please Also Note: These statutes are intentionally vague so that prosecutors have the ability to fit specific situations into the definitions.
NRS 200.464 applies to what might be thought of as the “middlemen.” These are the people who do not actually force anyone into involuntary servitude, but rather find people that easily could be forced into involuntary servitude, and then somehow present those people to those who will force the involuntary servitude.
- There are a number of ways that someone can be found guilty under NRS 200.464:
- Recruiting a person to be held in involuntary servitude;
- Entices a person to submit to involuntary servitude;
- Harbors someone with the knowledge that they will be held in involuntary servitude;
- Transports someone with the intent or knowledge that the person will be held in involuntary servitude;
- Proving or obtaining someone with the knowledge or intent that they be held in involuntary servitude.
- You must also benefit from your role as a “middleman.”
NRS 200.465 applies to situations where one person takes ownership over another, and to any situation where someone either buys or sells another person. It is a fairly easy-to-understand statute with only three routes to a violation:
- The attempt to assume ownership over another person;
- Giving or receiving anything of value for the purchase or sale of another person;
- Knowingly helping, in any way, a person who violates the statute.
NRS 200.466 is not a criminal statute in that it does not define a crime. Rather, it applies to the other Involuntary Servitude statutes and gives the Court the authority to order restitution for any violation of NRS 200.463, 200.4632, 200.464, 200.465. The types of restitution that the Court can require consists of:
- The cost of medical and psychological treatment for the victim;
- The cost of physical therapy;
- The cost of occupational therapy and rehabilitation;
- The cost of temporary housing;
- The cost of child care;
- Return of property or the cost of any property damage or destruction;
- Any expenses needed to relocate the victim away from the defendant (this will usually require some sort of verification of the need for, and amount of, the expenses)
- The cost of moving the victim back to their home country, if applicable; and
- Any other losses suffered by the victim.
Please Note: The word “losses” as it is used at the end of this statute is intentionally undefined and vague, giving the Court the ability to order restitution for any sort of damages that it sees fit.
What are the possible penalties?
The penalties for Involuntary Servitude depend entirely on which of the above statutes are violated and in what way.
- A violation of NRS 200.463, involuntary servitude, where the victim suffers no substantial bodily harm is a category B felony, and carries with it:
- Between 5 and 20 years in a Nevada State Prison; and
- Possible fines up to $50,000.00
- A violation of NRS 200.463, involuntary servitude, where the victim does suffer substantial bodily harm is also a category B felony, but carries with it:
- Between 7 and 20 years in a Nevada State Prison; and
- Possible fines up to $50,000.00
- A violation of NRS 200.4631, involuntary servitude of a minor, is a category A felony and carries with it:
- Life in a Nevada State Prison, with the possibility of parole after 15 years; and
- Possible fines up to $50,000.00.
- A Violation of NRS 200.464, recruiting, enticing, harboring, transporting, providing or obtaining another person, or benefiting from any of the same conduct, is a category B felony, and carries with it:
- Between 1 and 20 years in a Nevada State Prison; and
- Possible fines up to $50,000.00.
- A violation of NRS 200.465, assuming ownership over another person, is a category B felony, and carries with it:
- Between 5 and 20 years in a Nevada State Prison; and
- Possible fines up to $50,000.00.
Please Note: The prosecutor has the ability to add the enhancement penalty of a “hate crime” under certain circumstances. This charge can only be used to enhance other penalties, but if found guilty of this enhancement, the possible prison sentence can be up to whatever the sentence for the underlying crime, and is added to the end of the original sentence. So the prison sentence portion of the penalty for a violation of NRS 200.463, with no bodily injury and with the hate crime enhancement would become, between 5 and 20 years for the crime and between 5 and 20 years for the enhancement. (For a more in-depth description of the “hate crime” enhancement, please click here.)
Please Also Note: The Court’s discretion, allowed under NRS 200.466, does not affect the fines allowed by NRS 200.463-200.465. It is possible to be fined the full $50,000.00 and be required to pay any and/or all of the restitution payments set forth in NRS 200.466.
Are there any Defenses?
All of the defenses to Attempted Murder by Poison are based on the elements of the crime. They include:
- No Intent – As already noted above, Involuntary Servitude requires that the accused intend the eventual forced labor. This defense works for all of the possible charges listed in NRS 200.463-200.466. If the accused did not intent that the victim be forced into providing labor or services, then the charges should be dropped or dismissed.
- No Forced Labor – Obviously, if the victim was not being “forced” to provide labor or services, then the charges should be dropped or dismissed. However, this also applies to situations of false identification. If the accused was falsely identified as someone involved in involuntary servitude, then they should not be charged with Involuntary Servitude.
- Lack of Evidence – As with any crime, the prosecutor must show that you were guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt. If there is not enough evidence to prove each element of the crime, then the charges against you should be dropped or dismissed.
Please Note: Consent is not a defense to Involuntary Servitude. Regardless of the victim, there is no such thing as ‘consent’ to Involuntary Servitude. If the victim is a child it is because the Court deems children unable to make such a decision, so consent cannot be used as a defense. If the victim is an adult, then consent does not apply because Involuntary Servitude requires some form of duress, where the victim is “forced” into a situation where they have to perform the labor or services or face worse consequences. Consenting under such a situation is not actual consent. Since one cannot consent to be under involuntary servitude, then a victim likewise cannot consent to being recruited, enticed, or transported for the purpose of being held in involuntary servitude.
What should I do if I’ve been charged with the crime of Involuntary Servitude?
As with any crime, it is very important that you speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible so that you can discuss the specific circumstances as well as any defenses that may apply to your case.