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Pennsylvania Prostitution Laws

Overview of Pennsylvania Prostitution Laws

Pennsylvania prohibits prostitution, which state law defines as sexual activity performed as a business. Under state law, a prosecutor can charge an individual who engages in sexual activity for a business purpose or who loiters in a public place seeking opportunities to engage in prostitution. In addition, a prosecutor can charge an individual with patronizing prostitutes if the individual enters a house of prostitution or pays someone to perform sexual acts.

State law also prohibits the promotion of prostitution. An individual promotes prostitution by operating a brothel or house of prostitution, hiring others to work as prostitutes, or otherwise engaging in the "pimping" of prostitutes. An individual who promotes prostitution often receives a part of the prostitute's earnings.

Defenses to Prostitution Charges

  • Sexual activity not performed for a business purpose
  • Entrapment arranged by police or law enforcement officials

Penalties and Sentences

Pennsylvania state laws set a range of penalties and sentences for prostitution crimes. In general, the severity of the sentence depends on the defendant's prior prostitution offenses. State law charges a first or second offense of engaging in prostitution as a third degree misdemeanor, which can result in a maximum sentence of imprisonment for up to one year.

A third offense becomes a second degree misdemeanor, which increases the potential sentence to imprisonment for up to two years, while a fourth offense or greater increases the offense to a first degree misdemeanor, which can result in a sentence of up to five years of imprisonment. State law sets a similar range of penalties for individuals who patronize prostitutes.

If the defendant promoted prostitution, the state charges the offenses as a second degree misdemeanor unless the defendant's activities meet the criteria for a third degree felony. For example, the offense might become a third degree felony if the defendant promoted child prostitution, operated or managed a house of prostitution, or promoted the prostitution of someone infected with HIV or AIDS. The maximum sentence in Pennsylvania for a third degree felony is seven years of imprisonment.

Pennsylvania Prostitution Statute

18 Pa. Cons. Stat. section 5902

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

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