Prostitution Laws

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What Is Prostitution?

Although state prostitution laws vary, prostitution typically refers to the sale of sexual services. Sexual acts beyond traditional intercourse often fall under prostitution laws as well. Prostitution, however, excludes sexual activity between spouses. While payment does not have to be in dollars, monetary compensation is the most common. Prostitution is a misdemeanor in the United States except in ten counties in the State of Nevada.

There are two basic criminal acts associated with prostitution:

  1. Engaging in an act of prostitution: engaging in sexual intercourse with another person in exchange for money or other forms of payment.
  2. Soliciting Prostitution: Offering or soliciting money to another person in exchange of a sexual act.

Prostitution laws generally cover these three issues:

  1. Was there sexual contact? Sexual contact occurs when two people engage in sexual intercourse. Prostitution laws are gender neutral in some states, and cover both opposite sex and same sex prostitution. Sexual contact is usually expanded to include other means of touching.
  2. Did one of the parties patronize prostitution? A person patronizes (or "solicits") prostitution by giving something of value to another person as compensation for sexual conduct. A person also patronizes prostitution if that person agrees to give something of value to another person in return for sexual contact. Finally, a person can also patronize prostitution if that person requests sexual contact in return for something of value. 
  3. Did that person offer something of value for the sexual contact? "Something of value" typically means monetary compensation, but can be anything of value, including other non-sexual services.

What Are the Penalties for Prostitution?

Prostitution or solicitation of prostitution is a serious offense. Prostitution is usually a misdemeanor in most states. The first offense for a prostitution charge can result in up to six months in county jail with a fine of up to $1,000.

What Are the Legal Defenses for Prostitution?

If you are charged with soliciting prostitution, there are a number of legal defenses to dismiss the charge or reduce the charge to a lesser offense. The legal defenses include:

Do I Need a Lawyer?

If you are accused of prostitution or solicitation, you should speak to a criminal defense lawyer immediately to learn more about your rights, your defenses and the complicated legal system.

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Last Modified: 08-19-2014 10:29 AM PDT

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