The notion that people have ownership of their own bodies, and thus, should be able to do what they please with them (as long as no one else is harmed) is endorsed by most people in theory. However, despite the majority of society's outlook on the freedom of personal choice, there still remains state and federal laws that criminalize certain personal, willful, and most importantly, harmless actions.
In the state of Pennsylvania, prostitution is outright prohibited by law. State law enforcement has made tremendous efforts to deter prostitution in the state by conducting large-scale operations. By engaging in this act, or being associated with a prostitute or a promoter of such, you can be exposed to serious legal repercussions. Not only will you be arrested and charged, but you'll have to confront condemnation from the public, your employer, family, friends, and associates.
In order to protect yourself from the legal and collateral consequences of a criminal conviction, your first step should be to retain a criminal defense attorney. A legal advocate will be able to assess your case and provide you with applicable defenses to either significantly reduce your sentence or get your case dismissed completely. Your next step would be to gain a thorough understanding of the state's prostitution laws. For the purposes of this article, (1) the state's various prostitution laws and penalties, (2) and the significance of retaining legal counsel to defend against criminal charges of this nature.
Prostitution Laws and Penalties in Pennsylvania
According to Pennsylvania statutes, the act of prostitution is defined as engaging in “sexual activity as a business.” This means that any individual who is caught performing sex activities in exchange for profit may be charged with this offense. A person may also be charged with this crime if a prosecutor can prove that the defendant was loitering in a public place (or in view of a public place) with the intent to engage in hired sexual activity.
People who buy sex or attempt to do so may also face criminal charges for the crime of “patronizing” a prostitute. Although this crime isn't charged as “prostitution,” proof that you were attempting to receive the services of a prostitute, or anyone else for that matter, will expose you to the exact same penalties as a prostitution charge.
A person commits the offense of patronizing a prostitute if he or she hires a prostitute - or any other person - to engage in sexual activity, or if that person enters or remains in a house of prostitution for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity.
The severity of the criminal penalties imposed for prostituting and patronizing increase based on the number of offenses previously accrued. Prostitution is typically charged as a misdemeanor, but it may be charged as a felony in certain circumstances. The legal ramifications for this offense are as follows:
- First or second prostitution/patronizing conviction: third-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to one year of imprisonment
- Third prostitution/patronizing conviction: second-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to two years in prison
- Fourth or subsequent prostitution/patronizing conviction: first-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to five years in prison
It is a felony of the third degree if a defendant is aware that they were HIV positive, or manifested AIDS. A conviction for this offense will result in a maximum imprisonment term of no more than seven years.
The promotion of prostitution
In addition to prohibiting the act of prostitution, state law also forbids the promotion of prostitution - commonly referred to as pimping or pandering. People who promote prostitution are considered just as wrong, if not more wrong, than the people who are engaging in sexual activities for profit. According to state law, a person is guilty of promoting prostitution when he or she:
- Manages or owns a house of prostitution or a prostitution business
- Encourages or causes a person to become or remain a prostitute
- Finds a customer for a prostitute or vice versa
- Transports or arranges the transportation of a person into or across the state for the purpose of prostitution
- Lives off of or is supported by money earned from prostitution
- Leasing or otherwise allowing property under the defendant's control to be used for prostitution without making an effort to stop the use
- Making money or agreeing to receive money for doing any of the above actions
It's important to note that a person does not have to technically be apart of the prostitution ring to be convicted of this crime. A person who owns a property and allows prostitutes to work in that space can be charged with the promotion of prostitution.
Individuals charged with promoting prostitution may be sentenced to up to three years in prison for a first offense. If a defendant promotes the prostitution of a person with HIV/AIDS or the prostitution of a minor, he or she will be faced with more severe legal penalties.
Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been arrested and charged with prostitution, the promotion of prostitution, or patronizing a prostitute, it is crucial that you immediately contact an attorney. Not only will the conviction of these offenses create a criminal record or add to your current record, they will cause you a lot of embarrassment in the process. In order to clear your name and salvage your reputation, it is imperative you retain a skilled criminal defense attorney.
Joseph D. Lento has extensive experience representing clients who have acquired misdemeanor and felony prostitution charges and has helped them prevail in court. Whether this be the significant reduction of a sentence or a complete dismissal of charges, attorney Lento has provided his clients with the best results for their circumstances. He can do the same for you. Contact him today for a solid defense and dependable representation.