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In November 2012, California’s voter initiative process led to the passage of a new law criminalizing human trafficking. Funded by an Internet entrepreneur and riding a wave of anti-trafficking activism, the CASE Act is likely to spawn comparable attempts at law reform in other states. Covering the history of the law in California as well as the way anti-trafficking activism in the United States has trended toward a conflation of the notion of “trafficking” with the much larger category of prostitution, this essay will give special attention to elements of the new law that further criminalize consensual conduct and subvert civil rights through the CASE Act’s use of the sex offender registry. Based on inflated numbers and junk science, the notion of trafficking sold to California voters bore little resemblance to the reality of debt bondage and nonconsent—things that California law already criminalized.

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