The Charge of Soliciting Prostitution

In this comprehensive guide to the charge of soliciting prostitution, DSW answers the most frequently asked questions about solicitation and other prostitution laws.

Is soliciting prostitution defined differently in every State?

Yes, the definition of soliciting prostitution in the criminal law varies in different jurisdictions. For example, states may define “anything of value” differently, and they may list specific sexual conduct that is encompassed in prostitution laws. In some states, soliciting prostitution is its own statute; in others, it is written into a prostitution law that encompasses the purchase and sale of sex alongside other related charges and definitions.

what is soliciting prostitution

What is soliciting prostitution?

The dictionary describes solicitation as “the act of accosting someone and offering one's or someone else's services as a prostitute,” but legally speaking, what is soliciting prostitution? Soliciting prostitution is a criminal law in many states forbidding the offer to exchange anything of value for sexual acts; definitions vary by state. Because prostitution laws vary greatly from state to state, we’ve created this informational resource to help you find prostitution laws by state.

  1. What is patronizing prostitution?

    The dictionary defines “patronizing” as “to frequent as a customer,” but related to the legal framework around prostitution, what is patronizing prostitution? A patronizing prostitution charge arises out of the purchase of sexual services. Like solicitation, patronizing is codified differently around the country.

  2. What is promoting prostitution?

    The answer to the question “what is promoting prostitution?” may vary greatly state-to-state. It can refer to a number of acts related to prostitution that go beyond the basic purchase and sale of sex — for example, receiving money acquired through prostitution or owning a place where prostitution occurs.

  3. What is compelling prostitution?

    Explanations for soliciting, patronizing, and promoting prostitution are above — so what is compelling prostitution? Compelling usually refers to the use of force, fraud, and/or coercion to encourage another person to engage in prostitution; this is also known as human trafficking, though the language in compelling prostitution and trafficking laws differ in some states.

Is soliciting prostitution a felony?

People learning about prostitution laws may ask, is soliciting prostitution a felony? Again, it is best to consult the laws in your state. However, soliciting is usually a misdemeanor crime.

  1. Can I face jail time for soliciting prostitution?

    Possible jail time for soliciting prostitution differs from state to state, so it is important to look to the laws in your state. Because soliciting tends to be a misdemeanor, jail sentences are less than a year at maximum.

  2. What happens when someone is arrested for solicitation of prostitution?

    Just because someone is arrested for solicitation of prostitution does not mean they will be sent to jail. Usually prosecutors can choose to only require a defendant to pay a fine.

  3. How long can you go to jail for prostitution?

    People often ask, “how long can you go to jail for prostitution?” There is no simple answer because laws may vary state to state and depend on the facts of the case. Generally, prostitution crimes involving adults are misdemeanors so they are not associated with large fines or significant jail time.  Further, many jurisdictions have begun implementing diversion programs such as Human Trafficking Intervention Courts to minimize punishments and instead connect sex workers with social services.

  4. Is soliciting prostitution online legal?

    Soliciting prostitution online is illegal and, in fact, a federal law enacted in 2018 called the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA/FOSTA) allows websites to be held liable for hosting advertisements for sexual services. SESTA/FOSTA shut down many websites that were used for the solicitation of prostitution such as Backpage and parts of Craigslist. Decriminalize Sex Work supports the full repeal of SESTA/FOSTA, which was supposed to prevent the online exploitation of trafficked persons. In effect, these laws have hurt the people they intended to help, pushing sex workers and trafficking victims into more dangerous and exploitative situations.

  5. Solicitation of prostitution text message correspondence

    As with other forms of communication, solicitation of prostitution text message correspondence can also be illegal when it falls under the local statutory definition of soliciting.

What is a prostitution sting?

In discussing prostitution laws, one of the questions that inevitably arises is: what is a prostitution sting?

  1. How do prostitution stings work?

    There are a few different answers to the question: why do prostitution stings work? Stings can take different forms, but ultimately are a tool that law enforcement uses to arrest people under prostitution laws. Prostitution stings can go after people seeking to buy sex or people seeking to sell it.

  2. How to tell if it’s a prostitution sting

    If you are wondering how to tell if it’s a prostitution sting, unfortunately there is no easy answer. Since there are many strategies for policing around prostitution, the answer could differ depending on where you are or what they are looking for.

How could the laws around solicitation of prostitution change?

The above explains the criminalization of some prostitution-related crimes. There are several other legal models that have been proposed to change prostitution laws. Partial decriminalization (also known as the Nordic model, the entrapment model, the end demand model, and the equality model) seeks to abolish laws prohibiting the sale of sex but continue criminalizing soliciting and purchasing prostitution. Legalization makes prostitution a regulated trade. Total decriminalization abolishes all prostitution laws concerning the consensual sale and purchase of sex between adults.

How to stop prostitution according to Nordic model advocates

The goal of Nordic model advocates is to stop prostitution. The Nordic model of prostitution is based on the theory that if the purchase of sex, but not its sale, is criminalized, then there will no longer be any demand for paid sexual services and the sex trade will cease to exist. They also believe that prostitution denigrates women and that clients of the sex industry are inherently harmful. However, research on the Nordic model of prostitution has shown that it does not stop or significantly reduce prostitution, but it does make sex work more dangerous for sex workers.

What are Nordic model misconceptions about soliciting prostitution?

Nordic model advocates believe that soliciting prostitution will no longer happen if it is criminalized because there will be no demand for sex work. However, Nordic model research show that the sex trade continues to operate under both criminalization and partial decriminalization because full service sex work is an important source of income for many people, and regardless of criminalization people still have the desire or need to purchase or sell sex. Further, research also shows that the Nordic model harms the health and safety and well-being of sex workers.

What is the difference between sex trafficking and prostitution?

The discussion about changing prostitution laws often brings up questions about stopping sex trafficking, so what is the difference between sex trafficking and prostitution? Prostitution refers to the laws governing adult consensual sex work, which is a transaction between two consenting adults. Sex trafficking, which falls under the umbrella of human trafficking, involves the use of force, fraud, and/or coercion to have another person engage in prostitution for the trafficker’s benefit. No legal model, including total decriminalization, advocates for the abolishment of anti-trafficking laws because trafficking is distinct from prostitution.

  1. What does research indicate about the effects of legalizing prostitution?

    When learning about the different legal models around prostitution laws, many wonder “what does research indicate about the effects of legalizing prostitution?” Legalization refers to the sex trade becoming like other forms of commerce that are regulated by the government. While legalization creates avenues to stable employment for some sex workers, there are still barriers to access for others who are unable to work in regulated brothels. Legal brothels also allow for worker exploitation because brothel owners control the working conditions. Even where prostitution is legalized, the sex trade continues to exist outside of regulated spaces.

  2. Under legalization, what happens if I solicit a prostitute?

    If you solicit a prostitute outside of a legal brothel in a place where prostitution is legal, you are still committing a crime because prostitution is only legal within brothels.

  3. How is porn not prostitution?

    People unfamiliar with the language around sex work may ask, how is porn not prostitution? It is important to remember that “prostitution” is a strictly legal term that only refers to the laws governing the purchase and sale of sex. “Sex work” is an umbrella term for various kinds of work, including full service sex work that is punishable under prostitution laws. Sex work can also refer to stripping, porn acting, phone and webcam services, and more.

Is soliciting for prostitution considered sex trafficking?

Soliciting for prostitution where both parties are under no form of coercion is a prostitution crime. If there is force, fraud, or coercion involved, then it is classified as trafficking.

Please consider supporting the movement for total decriminalization of prostitution.

The total decriminalization of prostitution is the only model that recognizes prostitution as a victimless crime that will continue to exist whether or not it is criminalized. Decriminalization allows those engaged in adult consensual sex work to operate free of the danger of exploitation and unnecessary involvement in the criminal legal system. Your donations to Decriminalize Sex Work help us lobby state legislatures to change laws and improve public attitudes towards sex work and decriminalization.