CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Brown on Extraterritorial Sex Trafficking Statutes

Jonathan Brown has posted The Modern Foreign Commerce Clause: U.S. v. Baston and Extraterritorial Sex Trafficking Statutes (University of Missouri-Kansas City Law Review, Vol. 87, No. 1, 2018) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Article I, section 8 of the United States Constitution contains three separate commerce clauses, although from the law school classroom to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Interstate Commerce Clause is the most litigated and the most explored and developed. Of the trio, however, the Foreign Commerce Clause arguably has the greatest potential to expand U.S. sovereign authority outside U.S. territorial borders, especially with the ever-growing forces of modern globalization.

Although there are many, international sex trafficking has, with the rise of globalization and moral politics, in many ways become more recognized as a social ill and the international community has begun to take notice. Of course, as with the majority of crime, enforcement begins at the individual state level, and the United States has taken a leading role in the fight against international sex trafficking.

With the international nature of the crime even where there is some connection to the United States (as would be necessary to hold anyone accountable through the United States justice system), these laws must necessarily reach beyond the territorial bounds of the United States.

In this context, this comment examines the current state of international sex trafficking and efforts by the United States to bolster its jurisdiction to bring international sex traffickers to justice. Specifically, the comment views this issue through the lens of United States v. Baston--where federal prosecutors relied on sex trafficking laws expanding an extraterritorial reach to conduct and acts that occurred wholly outside the United States. Because, as a constitutional matter, the Foreign Commerce Clause has the greatest potential to make or break U.S. assertion of authority outside its own borders, the comment analyzes the current state of foreign commerce clause jurisprudence and, ultimately, within the context of international sex trafficking statutes relied on in United States v. Baston.

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