Prostitution, also known as "the world's oldest profession," is the act of engaging in sexual activities in exchange for money. However, it is not just the person selling their body for sex who can be arrested for prostitution; those who purchase sex and those who facilitate these transactions can also be arrested. We'll go into the specific requirements for each type of charge in the sections that follow.
Prostitution is considered to be illegal everywhere in the United States, with the exception of a few locations in Nevada. Even there, the practice is strictly regulated. Under federal law, it is illegal to transport a person across state lines or internationally for the specific purpose of engaging in prostitution or other illegal activities.
In terms of prostitution itself, the specific laws vary by state. Some states punish the prostitutes, while other states punish those who hire them. In still other states, both parties are charged with criminal activity.
What Qualifies as Prostitution?
When most people think of prostitution, they think of women walking the streets in sexy outfits, trying to get men to pick them up. However, the true definition of prostitution is much broader than that. In addition to streetwalkers, those who work in brothels are also considered to be prostitutes. Finally, call-girl and escort services, even the most sophisticated, high-end ones, can be categorized as prostitution as well, unless the terms of the service specifically prohibit sexual activity.
No matter how the service is obtained, it is always illegal to offer sex for money or to agree to pay for sex. In most states, just making an offer of sex for money or agreeing to pay for sex is enough to warrant an arrest; you do not actually have to follow through with the act for it to be considered a crime.
What Is Solicitation?
The person who agrees to pay for sexual services can be charged with solicitation of prostitution. You can be charged with this crime from the moment you make the agreement, even if no sexual activity has yet occurred and no money has changed hands. In most jurisdictions, the simple act of making the agreement is enough to bring charges against you.
Making an agreement to pay for sex does not necessarily have to be a verbal agreement. In some cases, your actions can qualify as an agreement as well, like bringing a prostitute up to your hotel room, even if you haven't discussed pricing yet. Another possible action that could qualify as an agreement would be visiting an ATM to withdraw cash to pay for the transaction.
Of course, an explicit verbal agreement will be the most difficult to challenge in court, as it is clear what your intentions were. Even if you never actually consummate the act, you can still be charged with solicitation of prostitution from the moment you agree to the transaction and take steps to move it forward. This is because solicitation is generally defined as simply encouraging or coercing someone to commit a crime, regardless of whether or not they actually follow through.
What Are Pandering and Pimping?
Pandering, more commonly called pimping, is the act of behaving as a middleman, connecting prostitutes with their customers. Though the person acting in this function does not actually engage in prostitution or solicitation themselves, they facilitate others who wish to participate in these activities.
In most cases, the pimp collects a portion of the prostitute's income in exchange for protection against violent customers or those who refuse to pay as agreed. While this can sometimes keep prostitutes safer while on the job, many pimps are fairly violent themselves, often using physical harm or the threat of physical harm to keep their "employees" in line.
All across the United States, pimping is considered illegal. However, this charge is often more difficult to prosecute, as many prostitutes are wary about identifying their pimps out of fear of retaliation against them later on.
Punishments for Prostitution and Solicitation
As with many other crimes, the specific punishments for prostitution vary from state to state. In most states, with the exception of the areas in Nevada where prostitution is legal, prostitution is charged as a misdemeanor offense. Most of the time, a prostitution conviction will result in a fine of several thousand dollars. There is also the possibility of jail time for up to one year.
It is important to note that prostitution sentencing takes into account prior offenses. While a first offense will typically be charged as a misdemeanor, the court has the option to upgrade the charge to a felony if the person has been convicted of prostitution multiple times, particularly if the arrests fell within a short time period. Felony prostitution charges usually come with larger fines and several years of incarceration in prison.
Solicitation, like prostitution, is typically charged as a misdemeanor and involves similar punishments. Also like prostitution, solicitation considers prior offenses when it comes to sentencing. In nearly all cases, if the person being solicited is under the age of 18, you will automatically be charged with a felony, even if it is your first offense.
Depending on the jurisdiction in which the offense took place, both prostitutes and their customers may be labeled as sex offenders. This typically requires adding their names to the National Sex Offender Registry, which can make it more difficult for the person to rent or buy a home or apartment, find a steady job and maintain personal relationships. There is a stigma attached to being a sex offender that can have major implications for a person's life going forward.
Punishments for Pimping and Transporting Prostitutes
Facilitating prostitution comes with steeper penalties than prostitution and solicitation. Offenses relating to pimping and transporting individuals for the purpose of prostitution are punished under federal law, so the punishments are the same across the country.
Transporting any person to engage in prostitution in the United States is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. You'll likely also have to pay a sizable fine. If you transport the person across state lines or to another country to act as a prostitute, the punishment is up to 30 years in prison, as well as a fine. Finally, importing foreign nationals to engage in prostitution in the U.S. is punishable by 10 years in prison, a fine, or both.
As with prostitution and solicitation, punishments are more severe if the person engaging in prostitution is under the age of 18. For those who facilitate prostitution by minors, the punishment is imprisonment for at least 10 years, with the maximum punishment being a life sentence. Fines are typically imposed as well.
You can also be convicted of encouraging others to engage in prostitution. If the person becoming a prostitute is an adult, you can be punished with up to 20 years in prison and a fine. However, if the person in question is underage, the punishment is at least 10 years in prison, up to a maximum life sentence.
Defending Against Prostitution, Solicitation and Pandering Charges
It is important to note the American judicial system assumes that you are innocent until the prosecutor in your case is able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty. It is always possible to defend yourself in these types of cases, possibly mitigating your sentence or getting the charges dropped altogether. You have several options available to you:
- Entrapment - This is one of the more common prostitution defenses. In many cases, police officers or federal agents go undercover, posing as pimps, prostitutes or customers. The goal is to lure other prostitutes or customers into engaging in acts of prostitution. Sometimes, even those who normally follow the law can be suckered into these traps, leading to the defense that they were entrapped unfairly.
- Mistake - This defense is best-suited to those who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and had no intention to engage in prostitution or solicitation. For example, securing the services of an escort to be your date to an event does not constitute prostitution if you had no intention of engaging in sexual activity. Similarly, simply being in an area where prostitution is common or visiting a massage parlor that secretly offers sexual services is not enough to gain a conviction, presuming you did not engage those services.
- Insufficient Evidence - Insufficient evidence can be used as a defense in cases where the agreement to exchange sexual activity for money was only implied, not explicitly stated. This type of defense is also suitable in cases where you only agreed to have sex, not to pay for it. Finally, this defense also comes into play in cases where you were joking about prostitution, but had no intention of actually following through with the act.
- Lack of Trustworthy Evidence - Oftentimes, police officers are equipped with body cameras, but that doesn't mean that they are always recording. Similarly, undercover agents may wear a wire in an attempt to record a conversation agreeing to pay for sex. Without a clear recording of the conversation, a jury will have a hard time getting past the reasonable doubt requirement for a conviction.
- Legal Impossibility - This defense is often used if your actions do not actually constitute a crime. This is common in cases relating to communications online, like paying a webcam performer to engage in sexual acts. Because you did not engage in any physical sexual activity with the person, you have not committed a crime. The legal impossibility defense can also be used if you were communicating online with an undercover agent posing as a minor.
Of course, the particulars of your case may lead to other possible defenses, but those listed here are some of the most common. You'll need to employ the services of a sex crimes attorney to help you evaluate your options and present your case in the best possible light.
In some cases, your attorney may be able to negotiate a plea bargain for you. This means that you will be subjected to lesser punishment in exchange for accepting some of the charges against you or cooperating with a larger investigation into a prostitution ring, for example. Even with a plea bargain, your case will still be recorded as a conviction, so it is important to weigh your options with your attorney before settling on going this route.
Choosing Your Attorney
When dealing with any type of criminal charges, it is important to find an attorney who makes you feel comfortable. You'll be discussing the sensitive details of your case ad nauseam, so you need to be able to talk freely with your attorney. In addition, you want to find someone who has experience with prostitution cases. Defending these cases requires careful planning and skill, so look for an attorney who has some expertise in this area.
Here at Sex Crimes Attorney, we have helped countless individuals defend against charges of prostitution, solicitation and pandering. Especially in this area of the law, cases can get quite complex, and we take an individualized approach to each case. This means that you'll get personalized attention and a defense that is uniquely tailored to your situation.
Our attorneys are compassionate and will do everything possible to ensure that you are comfortable throughout the entire process. We'll take the time to address all of your concerns and answer any questions you have about the charges against you, the possible punishments you are facing or about the legal process in general. We want you to be as informed as possible for the duration of your trial.
When you first get in touch with us, we'll schedule an appointment for you to come into our office for a free consultation. During your consultation, you'll have the chance to go over your case with one of our attorneys. Your attorney will advise you on the next steps you should take and will review your defense options with you.
Once you have made the final decision to work with us, we'll get down into the details of formulating your defense. Your attorney will remain in close contact with you throughout this process to ensure that you always know exactly what is going on in your case. The attorney you work with in our office will always be the same attorney who represents you in court, so you can have confidence that you are getting the best defense possible from an attorney who is deeply familiar with you and your case.
We welcome you to schedule your free consultation with Sex Crimes Attorney. Call us now at 888-666-8480 to get started.