Prostitution and the Super Bowl in New York
(written by Laura Monagle)
The story broke this morning of the Organized Crime Task Force and NYPD bust of a multimillion-dollar prostitution and drug ring, which had hoped to cash in on wealthy visitors to the City around the Super Bowl. The NYPD arrested 18 operators of the ring, as well as ten women accused of being sex workers. It was also announced today that the NYPD had arrested 87 johns, who were busted by an undercover operation in which police officers posed as sex workers.
Each of these groups of individuals (the alleged operators, sex workers, and johns) will face a different set of charges.
Operators of prostitution rings face a multitude of charges, which could vary depending on the circumstances.
New York Penal Law ("Penal Law") sets out the offenses of promoting prostitution (§230.19-230.32), compelling prostitution (§230.33), and sex trafficking (§230.34).
Two important definition relate to the offense of promoting prostitution; under §230.15, a person 'advances prostitution' when, acting other than as a prostitute or as a patron thereof, they 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 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. There are four sub-sections relating to this defense – first to fourth degree. The difference between the four degrees depends on the role of the defendant (management/supervision versus compelling via force or intimidation) in the operation, and/or the age of the prostitute in question. Promoting prostitution in the fourth degree is a class A misdemeanor, and anyone charged under this section faces one year imprisonment. Promoting prostitution in the third degree is a class D felony, and anyone charged under this section faces seven years imprisonment. Promoting prostitution in the second degree is a class C felony, and anyone charged under this section faces fifteen years imprisonment. Promoting prostitution in the first degree is a class B felony, and anyone charged under this section faces twenty-five years imprisonment.
Penal Law §230.33 sets out the offense of compelling prostitution, in which the defendant being older than the age of 21 years advances prostitution by compelling through force or intimidation a person less than the age of 16 years to engage in prostitution. This offense is a class B felony, and anyone charged under this section faces twenty-five years imprisonment.
The offense of sex trafficking is extensively set out in §230.34. There are several ways in which a person could commit the offense of sex trafficking – (1) unlawfully providing to a patronized person a narcotic drug, concentrated cannabis, methadone or GBH with the intent to impair that person's judgment – (2) making false statement to induce a patronized person into engaging in prostitution – (3) withholding or destroying a passport or immigration with the intent to impair a person's freedom to move – (4) requiring the performance of prostitution to repay a purported debt – (5) use of force against a patronized person to engage in prostitution by means of instilling fear of causing some future damage to that person. This offense is a class B felony, and anyone charged under this section faces twenty-five years imprisonment.
Under Penal Law §230.00, engaging in, agreeing to, or offering to engage in sexual conduct in exchange for money is sufficient to constitute prostitution. This is a class B misdemeanor, and anyone charged under this section faces three months imprisonment.
Defendants facing charges of prostitution should to keep in mind that accepting a plea of guilty or being found guilty of prostitution can have negative immigration consequences for non-citizens. Prostitution is a ground for inadmissibility and deportation under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Penal Law §230.02 defines 'patronizing a prostitute' as – (a) a person paying a fee to another person as compensation for such person or a third person having engaged in sexual conduct with him, or – (b) a person paying or agreeing to pay a fee to another person pursuant to an understanding that in return therefore such a person or a third person will engage in sexual conduct with him, or – (c) soliciting or requesting another person to engage in sexual conduct with them in return for a fee. Depending on the age of the prostitute, there are three different sub-sections relating to this offense – third degree (prostitute over the age of 18 years), second degree (prostitute less than the age of 14 years), and first degree (prostitute less than the age of eleven years). Patronizing a prostitute in the third degree is a class A misdemeanor, and anyone charged under this section faces one year imprisonment. Patronizing a prostitute in the second degree is a class E felony, and anyone charged under this section faces four years imprisonment. Patronizing a prostitute in the first degree is a class D felony, and anyone charged under this section faces seven years imprisonment.
There is a defense available under §230.07, where the defendant did not have reasonable grounds to believe that the person was less than the age specified.
Under §230.10, it is not a defense that the persons were of the same sex, or that the person who received, agreed to or solicited the fee was male and the person who paid or agreed or offered to pay such fee was a female.
All of the above offenses are serious. If you are facing any of the above charges, you should contact an experienced attorney immediately.