The definition of prostitution usually refers to an exchange of sexual services for compensation of some kind, usually financial.
While prostitution is primarily a crime that is prosecuted at the state level, rather than at the federal level (excluding situations involving sex trafficking or human trafficking involving interstate commerce), there are a few select counties in the U.S. which have legalized the practice.
For example, in Nevada some counties, notably excluding Clark county and the Las Vegas-Paradise area, permit the practice of regulated prostitution or sex work. In the counties of Churchill, Elko, Esmeralda, Humboldt, Lander, Lyon, Mineral, Nye, Storey and White Pine, there are regions in which prostitution has been made legal. However, only certain municipalities or incorporated communities have legalized prostitution despite the county-level legality.
The penalty for prostitution varies from state to state, from context to context, and also differs if the act of the offense itself involves interstate commerce (particularly via the internet, especially so if the offense involves coerced or unwilling human/sex trafficking).
The business of prostitution involving interstate or foreign commerce, including via the use of computer solicitation (aka use of the internet, including Craigslist and Backpage, is defined as illegal. The penalties within the U.S. code largely pertain to those who are profiting from the business at large, however, and do not necessarily apply to the sex workers themselves, nor the clients (aka Johns).
Section 2421 of the USC makes it plain that those who are found guilty of transporting an individual beyond state borders for the purposes of prostitution could face up to 10 years imprisonment, and Section 2422 expands this crime to include simple coercion or enticement, with penalties ranging up to 20 years imprisonment.
However, in court cases involving common prostitution or sex work, states have their own statutes and penalties.
While the situation in Nevada is quite complicated, the law in Florida, for example, is a bit clearer. Pimping, or the crime of a third party who takes proceeds from sex work, is illegal, as is soliciting or engaging in sex work while knowingly HIV-positive.
Living off the proceeds of prostitution is punishable by up to five years imprisonment, while a first offense for the act of prostitution itself is up to 60 days in jail, with penalties increasing for repeat offenses.
Engaging or offering to engage in sex work while knowingly infected with HIV is a much more serious offense, leading to a punishment of up to five years imprisonment in addition to fines in Florida.
The penalty for soliciting a prostitute varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In Florida, for example, those found guilty of solicitation for sex work face a fine of up to $5,000.
In California, by contrast, sex workers or prostitutes as well as their clients face similar penalties under the state’s Penal Code, Section 647 (b) PC. For a first offense, both parties face up to six months in the county jail in addition to a fine of no more than $1,000. Repeat offenses incur additional fines and jail time.
The difference between sex trafficking and prostitution is generally consent. Prostitution typically involves a consenting sex worker, though not always, as the primary element of the proceedings. Further, prostitution, more strictly and commonly, refers to an act involving a sex worker from their locality.
In contrast, sex trafficking always involves the illegal transport of one sex worker or prostitute from one jurisdiction to another (illegal at the federal level and many state levels).
Sex trafficking might also imply the possibility that the prostitutes or sex workers being trafficked are also under a state of coercion or threat of violence, enhancing the offense.
If you are accused of prostitution or sex work, it is strongly recommended that you seek the services of an experienced criminal defense lawyer.
Regardless of whether the charges you face are from a municipal, state or federal court, the charges remain serious and your chances of mounting a successful legal defense hinge upon selecting an experienced attorney.
If you have been arrested or charged with prostitution, you need the support of an experienced criminal defense lawyer who provides an aggressive defense on your behalf.
A prostitution defense attorney handles your case and protects your rights. A lawyer can:
An arrest for prostitution can be devastating and stressful. Being charged with prostitution is a serious matter and may result in a felony or a misdemeanor level crime, depending on the laws of your state.
It may result in jail time and adversely affect your reputation in the community. Hiring a prostitution defense attorney to represent you is the best way to ensure that your case gets resolved with the best result possible.