The Mann Act is a federal statute that prohibits interstate or foreign transportation of an individual with the intention of engaging such individual in sexual activity or prostitution. The Mann Act is also known as the White Slave Traffic Act. The Act made it a felony to transport knowingly any person in interstate commerce or foreign commerce for prostitution, or any other immoral purpose. It also made it a felony to coerce an individual into such immoral acts.
Under the Mann Act, transportation for the purpose of prostitution need not be with a commercial intention to be made liable. If a person is transported for non-commercial for sexual activity, it will amount to an offense under Mann Act[i]. The Act also applies when a male takes his under-age girlfriend to a neighboring state, or a female transports an underage boy across the state line for sexual purposes.
When a person by persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion transports an individual through a facility in interstate or foreign commerce to engage in prostitution or in any sexual activity it will be an offense under the Act. If the individual transported is below 18 years also, it will constitute an offense. The person transported can be of U.S. origin or an alien. Any attempt to do such an offense is also punishable. Using mail or other facility in interstate or foreign commerce to facilitate the prohibited conduct will also come under the offense.
A telephone is categorized as a facility in interstate commerce. Therefore, even an intrastate telephonic conversation with an intention to commit the crime of immoral traffic will constitute an offense.
Another federal statute has made it an offense for anyone to engage in prostitution, or a variety of prostitution-related offenses, within such reasonable distance of any military or naval camp, station, fort, post, yard, base, cantonment, or training or mobilization place.
The Mann Act also deals with the issue of child pornography. Boys and girls are protected from exploitation under the Act because the Act provides protection without gender differentiation.
The Federal Act imposes a punishment of imprisonment for not more than five years in a federal prison, or fine, or both for a person found guilty under the provisions of the Act.
The constitutionality of the Mann Act has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case Hoke v. United States, 227 U.S. 308 (U.S. 1913). The right to travel of an individual is not curtailed by the Mann Act. The Mann Act is used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to curtail commercialized immoral sexual activity.
Either a man or woman can be prosecuted under the Mann Act. The intention or consent of the person transported is immaterial for constituting an offense. The intention of the offender is taken as an essential element. The Mann Act is violated when a defendant crosses the state line with the requisite intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. For conviction under the Mann Act, it is not necessary that the person transported is a minor. However, illicit sexual activity should be the essential motive to constitute the offense. The Act can also been applied where the intent was to engage in a bigamous or polygamous marriage.
The transaction need not be a continuous process to constitute an offense under the Mann Act. Even a single interstate transportation knowingly to commit immoral sexual activity will amount to a violation of the Mann Act.
A person violating the Mann Act can be prosecuted under various grounds. A person can be prosecuted for the offense of causing transportation of a person in interstate commerce for certain proscribed purposes, and the offense of inducing a person to go in interstate commerce for like purposes. Both the acts are separate offenses and a person can be guilty of both offenses. This can happen even if the same parties are involved in the transaction, and the cause of action occurred on the same day, the same place, and the same transportation.
[i] Ramirez v. United States, 286 F. Supp. 2d 243 (S.D.N.Y. 2003).