Solicitation of Prostitution

The solicitation of prostitutes is a crime that involves a person who consents to exchange money for sex. This solicitation crime is typically charged as a misdemeanor offense. However, felony charges are also possible in some states and some situations. It can cause significant social stigma and much more, especially with a subsequent violation. Learn more in our legal guide and get free legal advice with our tool below.

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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Solicitation of prostitution is technically the request to one person by another to perform a sexual act in exchange for a fee. However, an actual solicitation of prostitution charge usually encompasses a wider set of circumstances with harsher penalties and punishments than the basic charge. It could be coupled with drug charges, assault charges, and much more. A person charged with solicitation of prostitution should understand the nature of these charges, the defenses, and all of the possible punishments before deciding how to resolve their case.

Solicitation of prostitutes does not require a completed act of sexual intercourse. The mere agreement or offer to complete a sexual act in exchange for a fee (i.e. exchange for money) is enough to support this charge. This also means that both parties to the agreement the person offering sexual services and the person accepting the services can be charged with prostitution. This is the most basic type. However, charges of solicitation can encompass a broader type of conduct.

If a person is involved in the negotiations described above, they can be charged as a party to the offense. Most people commonly think of the third person involved as the “Madame” or “pimp.” The third person can be anyone, though that aids in making it happen. This third person or “promoter” usually faces a stiffer penalty range than the original two actors to the agreement.

Keep reading to find out what type of crime is soliciting prostitution and what happens if you get caught soliciting prostitution. If you need help from an attorney, just enter your ZIP code below.

How Can You Beat a Solicitation Charge?

How to beat a solicitation charge? 

For a basic solicitation charge, the defenses are usually focused on whether or not an agreement actually existed. The absence of sexual activity is not the same as no prostitution crime. Essentially the defense is that the two people were discussing having a sexual encounter, but the encounter was not contingent of the exchange of a fee. Another defense is to simply counter that the solicitation was not for sexual relations, but rather a “flirtation.” This defense strives to refute the intent and fee requirements of a basic solicitation of prostitution charge.

Of course, if you’re the target of an undercover officer, this may be harder to deny. They’re likely to have targets on tape, and there’s no guarantee they’ll play the whole tape at trial. So any early context might be missed.

The motivation for the prostitution can also be used as a defense. A criminal defense attorney could argue a person was compelled by force or threats by another person, such as a pimp. If this can be successfully proven, the party involved is now a victim who can help build a case against the third party. Even if a police officer initiates a sting to catch you, this defense could still be validated.

Other possible defenses for solicitation crimes vary by state statutes, but some states will specifically cut off certain defenses. The first defense that many people point to is that a sexual act was never completed, just offered. Because solicitation punishes the request, the fact that a sexual act was not completed is not an effective defense.

The second applies to sting operations and the use of decoy prostitutes or clients. These can involve undercover officers posing in either capacity. The common defense used is entrapment. It has been consistently rejected as an available defense in most states because, again, solicitation only requires a defendant to ask the question, not complete the act of prostitution. If it’s a John, they might argue the officer offering the act was unclear about the suggestion that they pay. The idea is to create reasonable doubt.

Despite the possible fines and jail time, a prostitution conviction will have consequences in your personal and professional life and may damage your reputation. An attorney will review your case to decide what are the best legal defense to help you with your charges. Some possible defense strategies include: a mistake of fact, a lack of pertinent evidence to make a conviction, insufficient evidence to make a conviction, or entrapment.

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What Are the Penalties for Solicitation?

What happens if you are charged with solicitation?

The basic criminal offenses associated with solicitation of a prostitute (someone asking, someone accepting) is usually punished as a misdemeanor offense. A misdemeanor offense can include a range of punishment from probation to months in jail. In some cases, it could turn into years in jail based on history and severity of the crime. For example, a madam at a house of prostitution would face a harsher punishment than a one-time John.

Some court systems are concerned about the connection between prostitution and drug use and have since created diversion courts for those individuals charged with prostitution. The defendant is required to report to the court and participate in rehabilitative and life skill type courses. If the person completes the program, then the court will dismiss the solicitation charges outright. The idea is to minimize recidivism. This is not offered in all states or counties, but is a very enticing program for a defendant where available. It also accounts for the idea that acts of prostitution are not always willful. Prostitutes could be victims of human trafficking and other forms of coersion. If a defendant is placed on probation, conditions of probation can include counseling, life skill courses, and rehab.

Even though defendants are not usually required to register as sex offenders, some counties have begun posting pictures of persons arrested or convicted of solicitation on the Internet as an added deterrent. If a person is arrested and charged with a conviction of solicitation multiple times, the level of punishment can increase to a higher level misdemeanor and eventually to a felony-level offense. Prostitution law is often state-based. So what constitutes a felony in one court may not be treated the same in another. Other factors can lead to even stricter punishments.

You may also face additional penalties depending on the circumstances of your case. For example, if you are caught committing a prostitution offense while in your vehicle, you may be asked to abandon the vehicle to be towed.

Are Punishments Harsher When A Child Is Involved?

States are starting to crack down on child prostitution. If a defendant offers a child/children a fee in exchange for performing a sexual act, this charge can result in a felony charge and a place on the sex offender registry. The punishment range for this type of charge is probation up to ten plus years prison sentence. Being registered on the sex offender registry could follow you for life and have serious life-altering consequences even 20 years down the road. If someone was charged as a third party (i.e. the pimp) and it was proven that they were managing or directing multiple children or other individuals, the charge could increase to a felony-level offense.

In addition to a solicitation of prostitution charge, the third party could also be charged with a felony “human trafficking” charge. Some states have changed their definitions of forced labor services to include services obtained through fraud, not just coercion or physical force. This means if someone drives or recruits someone to serve as a prostitute based on a fake promise (such as a nanny job in the US), they could face additional felony charges. This change was motivated in part to address the issue of illegal immigrants being defrauded or tricked into the prostitution industry.

Examples of Soliciting Prostitutes

  • A person can be charged with soliciting a prostitute by withdrawing money from a bank or ATM after they are asked to pay for the services
  • A person committed the act of soliciting a prostitute when they bring a hired prostitute to a certain location (e.g., a hotel or motel) to receive solicited services
  • A solicitation charge becomes very serious if the act involved prostitution of a minor or a party engaged in a sexual act with an individual who has a sexually transmitted infection

A prostitution charge on your criminal record can seriously affect your personal and professional life. So don’t hesitate to contact a lawyer by entering your ZIP code in the box.

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