The world’s oldest profession is still illegal in New York. What
many people do not realize, however, is that prostitutes, pimps (or madams),
and johns can all be arrested and convicted under New York state law without
any sexual conduct taking place or any money exchanging hands. The state
laws concerning prostitution in New York are contained in Penal Law Chapter 230.
The most basic crime in this chapter is Prostitution, under Penal Law Section
230.00. A person is guilty of this Class B misdemeanor when he or she
“engages or agrees or offers to engage in sexual conduct with another
person in return for a fee.” Thus, it is important to recognize
that it makes no difference whether the accused actually received money
or engaged in any sexual act – indeed, the mere offer of sexual
services for money is just as serious under this section. Also, notably,
the definition of “sexual conduct” (defined in Penal Law Section
130.00 and 130.00) includes sexual intercourse, oral sexual conduct,
anal sexual conduct, aggravated sexual contact, and sexual contact). Put
plainly, the laws of this chapter apply to virtually all and any sexual
touching of any kind.
On the flip side, a john that pays or offers to pay for sexual services
of any kind is also guilty of at least the Class B misdemeanor of Penal
Law 230.03 (Patronizing a Prostitute in the Fourth Degree). This crime
can be a more serious felony where the prostitutes are underage. At one
time, it was a defense to these more serious charges that the john did
not have a reasonable cause to believe that the prostitute was underage
(under the repealed Penal Law Section 230.07), but as
Lawrence Taylor recently discovered, it is no longer a defense.
Finally, promoting prostitution, or “pimping,” as it is sometimes
referred to, is illegal under Penal Law Section 230.20. That Class A misdemeanor,
Promoting Prostitution in the Fourth Degree, makes it illegal to knowingly
advance or profit from prostitution. Under Penal Law Section 230.15, a
person “advances prostitution” when, acting other than as
a prostitute or as a patron thereof, he or she knowingly causes or aids
a person to commit or engage in prostitution, procures or solicits patrons
for prostitution, provides persons or premises for prostitution purposes,
operates or assists in the operation of a house of prostitution or a prostitution
enterprise, or engages in any other conduct designed to institute, aid
or facilitate an act or enterprise of prostitution. A person “profits
from prostitution” when, acting other than as a prostitute receiving
compensation for personally rendered prostitution services, he or she
accepts or receives money or other property pursuant to an agreement or
understanding with any person whereby he participates or is to participate
in the proceeds of prostitution activity.
Promoting prostitution is actually more serious than prostitution itself,
in that regular Prostitution is a B misdemeanor (punishable by up to 90
days in jail), whereas Promoting Prostitution is an A misdemeanor (punishable
by up to 1 year in jail). The charges pertaining to promoting prostitution
can be felonies depending on whether certain aggravating factors are present.
For example, Promoting Prostitution in the Third Degree (Penal Law 230.20,
a Class D felony) involves two or more prostitutes being promoted or a
prostitute under the age of 19. Promoting Prostitution in the Second Degree
(Penal Law 230.30, a Class C felony) applies where the prostitute is under
16 years of age or where coercive force or intimidation is used on the
prostitute. Promoting Prostitution in the First Degree (Penal Law 230.32,
a Class B felony), applies to situations in which the prostitute is less
than 11 years old.
Law enforcement devotes significant resources towards combating these crimes.
Specially-trained Vice Squad officers frequently pose as prostitutes or
johns in an effort to arrest individuals suspected of committing these
crimes. They have been known to frequent internet websites and chat-rooms
while posing as prostitutes or johns. They also frequently pursue classified
ads in “adult sections” of newspapers like the Village Voice.
If/when the undercover officer meets the suspect in person, they are almost
always wearing a recording device. In those situations, the undercover
officer is typically trying to get the prostitute or john to make the
offer for sexual services explicitly and clearly so that it can be used
in a trial, if necessary. The undercover officer may otherwise attempt
to get the prostitute or john to make the offer in a text message or email.
Sometimes, when prostitutes travel across state lines or are part of large
scale organizations, the cases can even be prosecuted by federal law enforcement
officers, as well.
If you or a loved one have been arrested or are being investigated for
any of the above-described crimes, you should consider contacting the
experienced criminal defense attorneys at
Galluzzo & Arnone LLP.
Manhattan Criminal Court,
Queens Criminal Court,