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Prostitution, the solicitation of a sex act, is unlawful under state and local laws, which may differ depending on the jurisdiction and is lawful in Nevada. In most jurisdictions, prostitution is a class one misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in county jail, a fine and probation.
Prostitution is broadly considered to be the exchange of money or merchandise in exchange for sexual services. It is a crime in all U.S. states, except for certain jurisdictions within the state of Nevada, where it has been legalized and regulated.
At the federal level, charges related to prostitution typically target sex traffickers (or pimps) rather than the prostitutes themselves, for whom the penalty — if caught abridging certain federal statutes related to prostitution near to military installations — is up to one year of imprisonment and a fine. By contrast, sex traffickers responsible for facilitating interstate sexual trade could see themselves facing up to 20 years behind bars.
There are two sides to most prostitution cases, given the unique situation that both the sex worker as well as his or her client are participating in criminal activity.
To prove a solicitation case being made against the alleged client of the prostitute, the prosecution must prove that the defendant knowingly, and intentionally, sought the services of the sex worker, arranging an exchange of sex for money or material goods.
By contrast, in order to prove a prostitution case against a sex worker, the prosecution must prove that the sex worker knowingly and intentionally engaged in sexual acts in exchange for said remuneration.
The punishment for prostitution, and for soliciting the same, varies greatly upon a couple of factors such as the state in which the case(s) are being tried, and whether or not the sex worker and/or client are considered repeat offenders.
A typical punishment for the client of a sex worker (aka a “John”) might range anywhere from 30 days imprisonment in addition to a fine of $250 all the way up to one year behind bars and a possible financial penalty of $5,000. Repeat offenders can expect harsher treatment in states where a third offense (or greater) constitutes a felony.
For sex workers, the categorization of their alleged crimes is quite similar. In most states, engaging in the act of prostitution is considered a simple misdemeanor (but not always, the act is automatically an aggravated misdemeanor in Iowa, and a class A misdemeanor in states such as Illinois and Colorado).
Like solicitation, the usual punishment for a first-time offender ranges from community service or a sexual addiction diversion program to a potential sentence of one year in county jail. In certain states, a first-time offender charged with the crime of prosecution could see a maximum penalty three times more severe than those levied against the potential client — up to 18 months behind bars as opposed to no more than six months for those found guilty of solicitation. As with solicitation, repeat offenders may find themselves facing more severe felony charges, with penalties to match.
As with all criminal trials, the defense may deploy several commonly used defenses in order to clear their client’s name.
With regards to prostitution, one defense frequently used is entrapment particularly if police are setting up a “sting” operation to catch either sex workers or their clients. If the officer engaged in such an operation is overly aggressive or comes off as threatening or coercive, the judge or jury may be amenable to such a defense.
A lack of evidence proving that the crime was actually committed (whether it be a solicitation or accepting money in exchange for sex, depending on the defendant) is also a strong defense in some cases. Intent, or knowingly conducting such business, can also be a viable defense if recordings or eyewitness testimony in support of the prosecution is too vague to constitute a surety beyond a reasonable doubt.
If you are facing prostitution charges, or charges related to the solicitation of prostitution, it would be in your best interests to secure adequate legal representation as soon as possible.
Not only can a skilled criminal defense attorney familiar with prostitution or sex work-related cases greatly increase your chances of a favorable outcome if your case goes to trial, but they also have the experience and expertise necessary to guide you toward a more informed decision.
If you are charged or about to be charged with prostitution, your best resource is to get legal representation from a lawyer who handles prostitution cases. An aggressive defense will help ensure your rights are protected.
No matter what your legal issue may be, it is always best to seek legal help early in the process. An attorney can help secure what is likely to be the best possible outcome for your situation and avoid both unnecessary complications or errors.
An experienced lawyer should be able to communicate a basic “road map” on how to proceed. The lawyer should be able to walk you through the anticipated process, key considerations, and potential pitfalls to avoid. Once you’ve laid out the facts of your situation to the lawyer, he/she should be able to frame expectations and likely scenarios to help you understand your legal issue.
Bill by the hour: Many attorneys bill by the hour. How much an attorney bills you per hour will vary based on a number of factors. For instance, an attorney’s hourly fee may fluctuate based on whether that hour is spent representing you in court or doing research on your case. Attorneys in one practice area may bill you more than attorneys in a different practice area.
Contingent fee: Some lawyers will accept payment via contingent fee. In this arrangement, the lawyer receives a percentage of the total monetary recovery if you win your lawsuit. In sum, the lawyer only gets paid if you win. Contingent fee agreements are limited to specific practice areas in civil law.
Flat fee: For “routine” legal work where the attorney generally knows the amount of time and resources necessary to complete the task, he/she may be willing to bill you a flat fee for services performed.
Pro se – This Latin term refers to representing yourself in court instead of hiring professional legal counsel. Pro se representation can occur in either criminal or civil cases.
Statute – Refers to a law created by a legislative body. For example, the laws enacted by Congress are statutes.
Subject matter jurisdiction – Requirement that a particular court have authority to hear the claim based on the specific type of issue brought to the court. For example, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court only has subject matter jurisdiction over bankruptcy filings, therefore it does not have the authority to render binding judgment over other types of cases, such as divorce.