With the recent publicity surrounding the so-called “Mommy Madam” case, there has been much attention brought to existing prostitution laws in New York State. In the past few years, New York tabloids have also followed the Eliot Spitzer and Lawrence Taylor scandals. It is the height of irony that back in 2007, Governor Spitzer himself signed into law a new bill to enhance punishment for certain prostitution related offenses. It is still an open question as to whether his power and influence helped him avoid being prosecuted under these same laws.
Although you might imagine that prosecutions involving alleged prostitution are pretty simple and straightforward, that is often not the case. The statutes can get complicated, and the punishments may range from small fines to years behind bars, depending on the circumstances.
Penal Law Section 230 governs prostitution offenses in New York State. Under this statute, a person is guilty of prostitution when he or she “engages or agrees or offers to engage in sexual conduct with another person in return for a fee.”
You can read the statute for what acts constitute “sexual conduct”, but what is most misunderstood by the general public is that a person can be guilty of prostitution without actually doing anything. All that is necessary is the agreement or offer. So, your words alone can convict you of prostitution, even if you were kidding.
Prostitution is a B misdemeanor in New York, punishable by up to 90 days in jail.
Section 230 defines these additional prostitution related crimes:
- Patronizing a Prostitute
- Promoting Prostitution
- Compelling Prostitution
- Sex Trafficking
- Permitting Prostitution
Alleged sophisticated prostitution rings may also be charged with related tax evasion and money laundering offenses, and may also be subject to civil forfeiture.
Please keep in mind that nothing discussed in this article is intended as legal advice, and it should not be considered as such. Laws change frequently, and each case is unique, so be sure to consult an attorney for advice about your particular situation.