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New York Prostitution Laws

Overview of New York Prostitution Laws

New York prostitution laws target a number of offenses stemming from the prohibited act of engaging, or agreeing or offering to engage, in sexual conduct with another person in return for a fee. Although Article 230 of the New York Penal Code does not define "sexual conduct," such conduct has been described by state courts to include a wide range of sexual acts, and even some clothed physical contact. Prostitution is a class B misdemeanor. New York additionally criminalizes the separate offenses of patronizing a prostitute, promoting prostitution, compelling prostitution, sex trafficking, and permitting prostitution.

A person patronizes a prostitute when he or she (a) pays a fee to another person as compensation for such person or a third person having engaged in sexual conduct with him or her pursuant to a prior understanding; (b) agrees to pay a fee to another person pursuant to the same understanding; or (c) solicits or requests another person to engage in sexual conduct with him or her in return for a fee. Actual sexual conduct need not have taken place to complete the crime; the soliciting or reaching an understanding is enough. Patronizing a prostitute is classified into three degrees which increase in severity in proportion to the decreasing age of the prostitute.

A person is guilty of promoting prostitution in the fourth degree - the least serious form of the offense - when he or she knowingly "advances or profits from prostitution." A person acting other than as a prostitute or patron "advances prostitution" when he or she "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."

Profiting from prostitution entails the acceptance or receipt of money or other property pursuant to an agreement or understanding with any person whereby the person participates or is to participate in the proceeds of prostitution activity - and is acting other than as a prostitute receiving compensation for personally rendered services. Promoting prostitution in the fourth degree is a class A misdemeanor and may be elevated to a higher degree depending on the presence of certain aggravating factors.

The crime of compelling prostitution occurs when a person 21 years of age or older "knowingly advances prostitution by compelling a person less than 16 years old, by force or intimidation, to engage in prostitution." Compelling prostitution is a class B felony. Sex trafficking, described in Section 230.34 of the Penal Code, is also punished as a class B felony.

Finally, a person is guilty of permitting prostitution when, having possession or control of a premises which he or she knows is being used for prostitution purposes, the person "fails to make reasonable effort to halt or abate such use." Permitting prostitution is a class B misdemeanor. 

Defenses to Prostitution Charges

  • Lack of reasonable grounds to believe that the prostitute was younger than the age specified (for patronizing a prostitute in the first or second degree)

NOTE: The prostitution statute specifies that it is NOT a defense to prostitution or patronizing a prostitute that (1) the parties or prospective parties to the sexual conduct were of the same sex, or (2) the prostitute in question was a male and the patron of the prostitute was a female.

Penalties and Sentences

The crimes of prostitution and permitting prostitution are class B misdemeanors. Each of these offenses is therefore punishable by a sentence of up to 3 months in prison, a fine of up to $500, or both. Promoting prostitution in its most basic form is a class A misdemeanor and thus subject to a sentence of up to 1 year in prison, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.

New York administers harsher penalties for the offenses of compelling prostitution, sex trafficking, and promoting prostitution in the first degree, each of which is classified as a class B felony. For these crimes, the state imposes a term of at least 3 years and up to 25 years in prison. The court may also impose a fine of up to $5,000 for a felony offense.

New York Prostitution Statute

Prostitution Offenses
Penal Code Article 230

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- please contact a New York criminal attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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