Mann Act

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Mann Act

The Mann Act (18 U.S.C.A. § 2421 et seq.), also known as the White Slave Traffic Act, is a federal criminal statute that deals with prostitution and Child Pornography. Enacted in 1910 and named for its sponsor, Representative james r. mann, of Illinois, it also was used to prosecute men who took women across state lines for consensual sex.

Representative Mann introduced the act in December 1909 at the request of Chicago prosecutors who claimed that girls and women were being forced into prostitution by unscrupulous pimps and procurers. The term white slavery became popular to describe the predicament these females faced. It was alleged that men were tricking, coercing, and drugging females to get them involved in prostitution and then forcing them to stay in brothels.

The legislation was intended to stop the interstate trafficking of women. Though federal criminal statutes were rare in 1910, and seen as an attack on state police powers, the legislation encountered little opposition. The act made it a felony to transport knowingly any woman or girl in interstate commerce or foreign commerce for prostitution, debauchery, or any other immoral purpose. It also made it a felony to coerce a woman or a girl into such immoral acts. President william h. taft signed the bill in June 1910.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Mann Act in Hoke v. United States, 227 U.S. 308, 33 S. Ct. 281, 57 L. Ed. 523 (1913). The Court broadened the scope of the act in Caminetti v. United States, 242 U.S. 470, 37 S. Ct. 192, 61 L. Ed. 442 (1917), when it ruled that the act applied to noncommercial acts of immorality. In Caminetti the Court seized on the phrase "any other immoral purpose," concluding that Congress intended to prevent the use of interstate commerce to promote sexual immorality. This interpretation radically changed the scope of the act.

The Mann Act was used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to curtail commercialized vice. It was also often used to prosecute prominent persons who did not conform to conventional morality. Jack Johnson, a heavyweight boxing champion, was charged with and convicted of a Mann Act violation in 1912, for taking his mistress across state lines. Over the years, similar charges were leveled against the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the actor Charlie Chaplin, and the rock and roll singer Chuck Berry. Of these three, only Berry was convicted of a Mann Act violation.

Congress amended the act in 1978 to attack the problem of child Pornography. The amendments made the act's provisions regarding this issue gender neutral, so that both boys and girls who were sexually exploited were now protected (Pub. L. No. 95-225, 92 Stat. 8–9). In 1986 the law was further amended. The new amendments made the entire act gender neutral as to victims of sexual exploitation. More important, all references to debauchery and any other immoral purpose were replaced by the phrase "any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense" (Pub. L. No. 99-628, 100 Stat. 3511–3512.) This change took the federal government out of the business of defining immoral. Because most states have repealed criminal laws against fornication and Adultery, noncommercial, consensual sexual activity no longer is subject to prosecution.

Further readings

Grittner, Frederick K. 1990. White Slavery: Myth, Ideology, and American Law. New York: Garland.

Langum, David J. 1994. Crossing over the Line: Legislating Morality and the Mann Act. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

Mann Act

n. a federal statute making it a crime to transport a woman across state lines for "immoral" purposes. The Mann Act was intended to prevent the movement of prostitutes from one state to another or in and out of the country in the so-called "white slave" trade. However, it also applies to a male taking his under-age girlfriend to a love-nest in a neighboring state, or a female transporting an underage boy across the state line for such purposes. Maximum term is five years in a federal prison.

References in periodicals archive ?
The Mann Act provided a means for small-town busybodies to bring the wrath of the government down upon their neighbors.
With the expanded mandate of the Mann Act, the Bureau grew rapidly, from some 60 agents to more than 370, opening up a White Slave Division and operating in every major city in the country within just five years.
At first it seemed that the champion had little to worry about from such a discredited accuser, especially as the alleged offence had occurred before the Mann Act was passed.
In 1913, Johnson was convicted of violating the Mann Act.
But in 1918 he was charged with violating the Mann Act, the federal statute aimed at prostitution, and he was subsequently dismissed from the university.
But, hey, at least it was his own money, and he may be prosecuted under a statute called the Mann Act.
Compounding the political ramifications of Spitzer having to resign as Governor, there are still potential legal charges Spitzer could face, including soliciting a prostitute, violation of the Mann Act, which reads as follows:
Again, from Love's story: "In June 1910, the month Congress unanimously passed the Mann Act, known as the White Slavery Act, the American yogi Pierre Bernard was jailed for abducting two young women in New York City; a week of sensational press coverage, in which he was forever branded the Omnipotent Oom, the Loving Guru of the Tantriks, ensued.
How long before Sparks coach Michael Cooper dons a wig and pulls a Juwanna Mann act just to have enough bodies on his roster?
In the context of the Immigration Act and the Mann Act, judges and lawmakers confronted the content and contours of illicit sex not, as in Lawrence, to determine what forms of intimate behavior lay beyond the reach of state regulation, but rather to determine what forms of intimate behavior lay within the reach of federal regulation.
In 1910, for example, Congress passed the Mann Act to combat interstate and international prostitution rings.
The crusades against prostitution and polygamy yielded the Mann Act and Mormon modification of church doctrine.