Penal Code Section 181 – Slavery

California law punishes the crime of “Slavery.” Under Penal Code Section 181, any person who does the following is guilty of Slavery:

  • holds or attempts to hold any person in involuntary servitude;
  • assumes or attempts to assume the rights of ownership over any person;
  • sells or attempts to sell any person to another;
  • receives money or anything of value in consideration of placing any person in custody, or under the power and control of another;
  • buys or attempts to buy any person;
  • pays money or delivers anything of value to another in consideration of having any person placed in his custody, or under his power or control;
  • knowingly aids or assists in any manner any other person engaged in slavery.

Punishment for Slavery:

Any person convicted of Slavery shall be punished by a two, three, or four year term in a local prison setting (felony jail).

Examples of Slavery:

Example 1:   A father offered to give his daughter to a family in exchange for a large payment.2
Example 2:   A man repeatedly approaches a child’s mother in an attempt to purchase the child. 3

Commentary on Slavery Prosecutions:

California prosecutors rarely charge the crime of Slavery.  However, with greater awareness placed on human trafficking and those forced into sexual servitude, prosecutors may be more inclined to pursue slavery charges in the years to come.  By some estimates, 40 million people in the world population toil under some form of Slavery.4


Notes & Citations

1 Penal Code Section 1170(h). A person may be sentenced to state prison based upon their past criminal history, however, or other disqualifying enhancements.
2 See People v. Daniel (1987) 195 Cal.App.3d 623.
3 See People v. Delvalle (1994) 26 Cal.App.4th 869.