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The Supreme Judicial Court has rejected a challenge to the constitutionality of the Massachusetts law G. L. c. 265, § 50 (a) that targets sex trafficking.  An Act relative to the commercial exploitation of people,  which criminalized sexual servitude, forced labor, and organ trafficking was approved in 2011.   The SJC categorized the intent of the Legislation as “to prohibit the trafficking of persons for sexual servitude”.

The challenges stem from Commonwealth v. McGhee where two Boston men were accused of recruiting three drug addicted women, supplying them with narcotics and coercing them to have sex with men who responded to online ads.  The defendants argued that G. L. c. 265, § 50 (a), “is unconstitutionally vague as applied to them and, therefore, violated their rights to due process under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments and art. 12.”

Additionally, the defendants point out that U.S.C. § 1591(a) (2012) the Federal Sex Trafficking law includes an element of force or coercion and that “§ 50 (a) fails to give them fair warning of prohibited conduct, noting that by merely assisting a consenting adult prostitute, they will be deemed to have engaged in the trafficking of persons for sexual servitude.”

The defendant’s contended “without the element of force or coercion, there is a real risk of arbitrary enforcement of the statute, which also offends standards of due process”.

The Justices disagreed with the arguments of vagueness and concluded that “because G. L. c. 265, § 50 (a), is sufficiently clear and definite, it did not violate the defendants’ rights to due process under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments and art. 12.”   Additionally, the phrase “commercial sexual activity” is widely accepted and understood in the English language and is well defined in G. L. c. 265, § 49.  Furthermore, the court concluded that “the conduct in which they engaged was the kind of conduct that the Legislature intended to prohibit and punish.”

 

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