Articles Posted in Prostitution-Related Offenses

Published on:

Perhaps someday, the New York Assembly will legalize sex work (several political candidates have recently promised to take steps toward legalization).  For now, however, it is still a Class B misdemeanor in New York to “engage or agree or offer to engage in sexual conduct with another person in return for a fee.” Penal Law § 230.00. Similarly, it is illegal to patronize a prostitute, meaning that it is a misdemeanor to “pay a fee to another person as compensation for such person or a third person having engaged in sexual conduct with him or her, or to pay or agree to pay a fee to another person pursuant to an understanding that in return therefor such person or a third person shall engage in sexual conduct with him or her.” Penal Law §§ 230.02 and 230.04. Of course, it is also illegal to promote prostitution (i.e. be a pimp or madam), which means to “knowingly cause or aid a person to commit or engage in prostitution, procure or solicit patrons for prostitution, provide persons or premises for prostitution purposes, or operate or assist in the operation of a house of prostitution or a prostitution enterprise, or engage in any other conduct designed to institute, aid or facilitate an act or enterprise of prostitution.” Penal Law §§ 230.15 and 230.20.

Law enforcement has long sought, with mixed results, to combat prostitution offenses in New York City. Back when prostitutes used to walk the streets of notorious neighborhoods in Manhattan, police would arrest prostitutes for just “loitering for the purpose of prostitution” (basically, walking on the sidewalk dressed like a prostitute talking to potential customers about tricks). Police would also go undercover and pose as johns to get prostitutes to make illegal offers of sexual conduct for fees. Police officers continue to pose as prostitutes to entice johns to make illegal offers, though nowadays they are more likely to find a target inside of a nice establishment in the city instead of on the sidewalk.  Indeed, undercover police officers dressed as attractive prostitutes often target middle aged men alone at hotel bars and proposition them to see if they will “take the bait,” so to speak. These sting victims oftentimes have legitimate entrapment defenses, but not after already having been humiliated and having had their livelihoods placed in danger as a result of the arrests.

With the advent of the internet, much of the prostitution business moved online to websites like Craigslist and Backpage. Prostitutes and escorts would post ads on these sites and johns would simply call them to make appointments. The postings were so numerous that despite some law enforcement efforts to make undercover arrests of these prostitutes – and perhaps more effectively, arrests of johns via false prostitution ads – the sheer volume of ads on these sites made it impossible to realistically stop the trade via undercover operations. Ultimately, the “escort” sections of these sites were shut down by law enforcement threats to hold the managers of these sites criminally and civilly liable.

Published on:

18 USC Section 2423

Federal criminal law prohibits a wide range of activities relating to transporting people and/or traveling across state lines or internationally for the purpose of engaging in illegal sexual activity. Specifically, 18 U.S.C. § 2423 prohibits four types of activities and carries very severe penalties.

First, 18 U.S.C. § 2423 makes it a felony punishable by a minimum of 10 years in prison (and by as much as life in prison) to “knowingly transport[] an individual who has not attained the age of 18 years in interstate or foreign commerce… with intent that the individual engage in prostitution, or in any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense.” This provision obviously applies to those engaging in the human trafficking of underage prostitutes, and also potentially applies to an adult who drives or attempts to drive a minor across state lines so that he or she can have sex with that minor in another state. It could also apply to people who purchase bus or plane tickets for minors to travel into the U.S. or across state lines for the purpose of engaging in illegal sex.

Published on:

Former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was acquitted on June 12, 2015 of "aggravated procurement" (or “aggravated pimping”) by the criminal court in Lille, France. He was facing up to 10 years life imprisonment and a 1.5 million euros fine for his alleged role in a French prostitution ring.

Conforming with the prosecutor’s recommendations to drop the charges and to acquit him, Judge Bernard Lemaire held that Dominique Strauss-Kahn was only behaving as a customer, which is not illegal under French criminal law, and that there was no evidence he was an instigator of the parties.

The results were similar for the thirteen other defendants, among whom were several businessmen, a lawyer, a former chief police, and a notorious owner of an escort bar. They were all acquitted but René Kojfer, former head of public relations at the Carlton Hotel, who was convicted to a one-year suspended prison sentence for procuring, but not aggravated.

Published on:

Craigslist crimes defense attorney explains common NYC arrests

Recently we have noticed an uptick in the number of arrests made by NYPD following investigations of advertisements on the popular website Craigslist (and to a lesser extent: the website Backpage). Though these websites can facilitate an almost limitless variety of crimes, the ones most commonly associated with these sites relate to prostitution-related services and sales of controlled substances/narcotics.

Controlled substances (Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance, Penal Law Chapter 220)

Published on:

This evening, the New York Post is reporting that the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has indicted at least one person, Anna Gristina, for running an underage prostitution ring in Manhattan. Shockingly, this brothel on East 78th Street – which will implicate a long roster of wealthy and prominent johns – purportedly had police protection from the NYPD. Aside from the possible criminal prosecution of police officers for their involvement in this sordid affair (not to mention the PR disaster that this represents for the NYPD), there may be another reason for the NYPD to be seriously concerned: the possibility of lawsuits.

In 2000, the U.S. Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, and later passed the Trafficking Victims Reauthorization Act of 2003, which provided for a civil remedy in Federal court for victims against their traffickers. In a nutshell, victims of sex trafficking (for example, underage prostitutes) have the right to sue their pimps/traffickers for damages, lost wages, and punitive damages (which can be significant). Many other types of civil actions – including civil RICO claims – might lie for this conduct as well. These sorts of remedies are rarely pursued in these sad situations, however, as the pimps/traffickers typically do not have enough money to make a lawsuit worthwhile for the plaintiffs, and almost certainly never have enough money to truly make their victims whole, from a tort standpoint. However, this case presents a unique twist on this tragic story: potentially, the victims of trafficking may be able to sue the police officers that provided protection (and thereby assisted in the trafficking) and by proxy the City of New York (with its very deep pockets) for its failure to monitor its officers and prevent their misconduct. Indeed, this may be the case in which victims of sex trafficking could actually recover judgments worth millions of dollars.

Matthew Galluzzo, the author of this article, is a criminal defense and civil rights lawyer at Galluzzo & Arnone LLP. He served for years as a rape prosecutor in the famous Sex Crimes Unit of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and continues to volunteer his time to assist in the effort to eradicate sexual violence. If you or a loved one have been a victim of a sexual assault or sex trafficking, or been falsely accused of having committed such a crime, you should strongly consider calling him or emailing him to schedule a consultation.

Published on:

The arrest of a friend or loved one often happens unexpectedly. The majority of New Yorkers do not have any experience with the criminal justice system and are often thrust into a position of having to deal with the possibility of bail being set. This post will explain a few factors that go into a judge’s decision as to whether to set bail, explain what steps should be taken immediately before the arrested person sees the judge, and finally, if bail is set, will explain the basic process.

First of all, the question may arise, “What is bail?” Bail is simply a condition set forth by the Court that the defendant must first comply with before he can be released from the custody of the New York City Department of Corrections. In most cases, that would be an amount of money designated by the judge in either cash or bond. The difference between these two methods of bail will be explained later.

It should be noted that in the case of many first-time offenders, no bail will be set at all. This is because the purpose of bail is to ensure that the defendant returns to court to answer for the charges. Contrary to popular belief, bail is not supposed to be “preventative detention,” or a way to prevent people from committing future crimes. Thus, if a defendant is an otherwise law-abiding citizen, and the charge is not serious enough to warrant bail, a judge may simply release him or her on their own recognizance. This is sometimes called “ROR.” In other cases, however, a judge may determine that a certain amount of bail is appropriate even for a first time offender. The criteria that the judge will consider is set forth in the Criminal Procedure Law:

Published on:

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[3] and 130.00[10]) 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.

Published on:

Most of us have read about the recent Charlie Sheen affair at the Plaza Hotel. According to the New York Post, Sheen offered $12,000 for sex with actress Capri Anderson. Under New York’s Penal Law, Patronizing a Prostitute, PL 230.03:

A person is guilty of patronizing a prostitute in the fourth degree when he patronizes a prostitute.

The stand-alone charge is not helpful. However, we do get a full explanation of patronizing a prostitute in Penal Law 230.02: