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Prostitution Charges in New York City

Prostitution in New York City has changed dramatically in the last 25 years; some New York City residents will remember what Times Square looked like in the 80’s and early 90’s. The reality is that prostitution has largely moved from the street corners to the internet. Many websites provide a forum to buy or sell virtually anything, including sex.

New York Penal Law §230.00 is the crime of Prostitution at its most basic level. A person is guilty of violating this statute when that person engages, agrees, or offers to engage in sexual conduct with another person in return for a fee. Prostitution is not a gender specific, or role specific, crime. The statute is written so that both the buyer and seller of sex, whether male or female, can be equally charged and convicted based on the transaction or the agreement to the transaction.

Other prostitution charges in New York City may contain aggravating factors such as the age of individual selling sex, or the proximity to a school, or if one of the parties is forced to engage. However, the crime of Prostitution simply concerns two consenting adults who agree to engage in sexual intercourse for some negotiated fee. A skilled attorney could assess the charges someone is facing and determine how to best prepare a defense based on these charges.

Potential Consequences of Prostitution Charges in New York City

Prostitution is a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail. A conviction to this offense will not require the defendant to register as a sex offender; however, the stigma of either being labeled a prostitute or a “John” can have devastating and lasting personal effects. While prospective employers, educational institutions, or licensing agencies may understand youthful indiscretions, the nature of prostitution charges cause people to immediately view the offender in a far more negative light. Unlike some other offenses, Prostitution is considered an offense to morality as well as the Penal Law, which people feel justified in judging more harshly.

How Does Being in a School Zone Enhance a Prostitution Charge?

To protect the best interests of children, New York Penal Law treats prostitution more harshly if it occurs someplace where school-age kids are likely to be nearby. Under New York Penal Law §230.03, it is a class A misdemeanor—punishable by up to one year in jail—for anyone to engage in prostitution in an area they know to be a “school zone” during any time of day in which school is in session.

A “school zone” can be a structure, building, playground, playing field, or any other land within the property boundaries of a private or public educational facility. In addition, public or private property immediately adjacent to a school—including sidewalks, parking lots, and public parks—may also be considered a “school zone” in the context of this charge.

What are the Consequences that Could Come from Promoting Prostitution?

Unlike the act of prostitution itself, the act of advancing and/or profiting from this crime is often a felony in New York City, potentially punishable by multiple years in prison upon conviction. This offense is classified as a misdemeanor and is charged as promotion prostitution in the fourth degree. New York Penal Law §230.20 defines this crime as a single act of advancing or profiting from prostitution, or the dissemination of obscene material advertising sexual services to ten or more people in a public area.

Anyone promoting the prostitution of more than one individual or any individual under the age of 19 may face significantly harsher penalties. Individuals who have been accused of compelling prostitution through the use or threat of force may also receive harsher penalties. At the most severe level, promoting prostitution in the first degree and compelling prostitution of a minor are both class B felonies, for which the maximum associated prison sentence could span up to 25 years in length.

Are There Any Affirmative Defenses to Prostitution Charges?

According to New York Penal Law section 230.01, it is an affirmative defense to a prostitution charge that the defendant was compelled by threat or intimidation to engage in prostitution. In the same vein, anyone who was a victim of sex trafficking as defined by New York Penal Law section 230.34 or the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act cannot be convicted of prostitution even if they are charged with it in New York City.

Talk to a New York City Attorney About Prostitution Charges

If you have been charged with Prostitution or Patronizing a Prostitute, a defense attorney is a necessity. The collateral consequences of being convicted for prostitution charges in New York city can effectively ruin a person’s life, even though the actual crime itself is a low-level offense. Every avenue of your defense must be explored to ensure that you are not stuck with this charge on your record. Naturally, in these cases, the chief witness against you will either be the prostitute or the patron with which you made the agreement. Destroying the credibility of that witness is the first step toward winning your case.

The New York City Prostitution attorneys at the Law Offices of Jeffrey Lichtman know how to investigate these cases and prepare strong defenses. We could work tirelessly to ensure that every possible helpful piece of information has been discovered and will be used to bolster your case or show that the prosecution’s witnesses cannot be trusted. Call us today for a free case evaluation.

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