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NY Penal Law § 135.35: Labor trafficking

Labor trafficking is contemporary term that essentially means slavery. It refers to making someone perform work by the use of force, fraud, or coercion. There are many types of labor trafficking including forcing someone to work to pay off a debt, forcing someone to work by giving that person drugs, or forcing someone to work for low or no pay by withholding that person's passport. Under New York Penal Law § 135.35, you could be prosecuted for the crime of labor trafficking if you induce someone to work under the following circumstances:

  1. Giving them drugs
  2. In order to repay a debt where fraud was involved
  3. Withholding a passport or other immigration document
  4. Using physical force
  5. Using a threat to do one of the following: physical injury, damage to property, kidnapping or unlawful imprisonment, accuse someone of a crime, expose a secret, testify or withhold testimony, or abuse official office to another person's detriment.

Labor trafficking is a class D felony.


Claudia wanted to hire someone as a maid. Although Claudia is a very wealthy woman, she did not want to pay her maid very much. Claudia put an ad in the newspaper and interviewed several candidates. She finally found a young woman who was willing to work for minimum wage. Once the woman started working, Claudia paid her only erratically. When the young woman complained, Claudia ordered her to continue to work. Claudia told the young woman that if she refused to work she would call the police and accuse her of theft. Claudia could be charged with labor trafficking as she using a threat in order to force the young woman to work for very little pay.

Related Offenses
  1. Coercion in the second degree: New York Penal Law § 135.60
  2. Coercion in the first degree: New York Penal Law § 135.65

A defense to a labor trafficking charge is showing evidence that you are paying a person a fair wage, that the person is working under fair conditions and that the person is free to leave your employ without any illegal repercussions.


Labor trafficking is a class D felony. The maximum possible sentence is 7 years in prison. The actual length of your prison sentence will depend on factors such as your prior criminal record, whether you take responsibility for your actions, and the facts surrounding your case. If you have no prior felony convictions then the judge has the option to sentence you to probation. If you do have one or more prior felony convictions, the judge will sentence you to prison.

New York Penal Law § 135.35: Labor trafficking

A person is guilty of labor trafficking if he or she compels or induces another to engage in labor or recruits, entices, harbors, or transports such other person by means of intentionally

  1. unlawfully providing a controlled substance to such person with intent to impair said person's judgment;

  2. requiring that the labor be performed to retire, repay, or service a real or purported debt that the actor has caused by a systematic ongoing course of conduct with intent to defraud such person;

  3. withholding, destroying, or confiscating any actual or purported passport, immigration document, or any other actual or purported government identification document, of another person with intent to impair said person's freedom of movement; provided, however, that this subdivision shall not apply to an attempt to correct a social security administration record or immigration agency record in accordance with any local, state, or federal agency requirement, where such attempt is not made for the purpose of any express or implied threat;

  4. using force or engaging in any scheme, plan or pattern to compel or induce such person to engage in or continue to engage in labor activity by means of instilling a fear in such person that, if the demand is not complied with, the actor or another will do one or more of the following:

    1. cause physical injury, serious physical injury, or death to a person; or

    2. cause damage to property, other than the property of the actor; or

    3. engage in other conduct constituting a felony or unlawful imprisonment in the second degree in violation of section 135.05 of this chapter; or

    4. accuse some person of a crime or cause criminal charges or deportation proceedings to be instituted against such person; provided, however, that it shall be an affirmative defense to this subdivision that the defendant reasonably believed the threatened charge to be true and that his or her sole purpose was to compel or induce the victim to take reasonable action to make good the wrong which was the subject of such threatened charge; or

    5. expose a secret or publicize an asserted fact, whether true or false, tending to subject some person to hatred, contempt or ridicule; or

    6. testify or provide information or withhold testimony or information with respect to another's legal claim or defense; or

    7. use or abuse his or her position as a public servant by performing some act within or related to his or her official duties, or by failing or refusing to perform an official duty, in such manner as to affect some person adversely.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

If you have been accused of engaging in labor trafficking it is important to seek legal guidance right away. The consequences for this crime can be significant, so it is imperative that your rights are protected. The staff at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates has years of experience successfully defending clients in New York criminal courts who have been charged with kidnapping, assault, stalking, and other serious crimes. Contact us at 800.696.9529 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We serve those accused of larceny in the following locations: the Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Manhattan, Nassau County, Queens, Staten Island, Suffolk County and Westchester County.

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