Engaging in prostitution is a misdemeanor crime under Michigan law. However, Michigan, like many other states, punishes the related offenses of solicitation, pimping, and pandering with greater penalties than for prostitution itself. The crimes of pimping and pandering carry still greater penalties where the crimes involve minors.
A person convicted of certain prostitution-related crimes may have to register as a sex offender under Michigan law.
For more information on the crimes of prostitution, solicitation, pimping, and pandering in general, see Prostitution.
Michigan law does not define prostitution, so the traditional dictionary definition applies: the act of engaging in sexual activity for pay. A person convicted in Michigan of a first or second offense of prostitution is guilty of a misdemeanor (with increased penalties for a second offense). A person charged with subsequent offenses of prostitution may face a felony conviction.
(Mich. Comp. Laws § § 750.448, 750.451 (1), (2), (3).)
A person seeking the services of a prostitute (commonly referred to as a "john") also violates Michigan law, which makes it a misdemeanor crime for any person to:
another person in a public place or in or from a building or vehicle to engage to commit prostitution, or do any other lewd or immoral act. Solicitation is a "two-party" transaction in which the person charged with solicitation has approached another person and offered to pay them for sex. Although a first and second offense of solicitation is a misdemeanor (with increased penalties for the second offense), a person charged with subsequent offenses of solicitation may face a felony conviction.
(Mich. Comp. Laws § § 750.448, 750.451 (3).)
Pimping or pandering in Michigan is the procuring of a female prostitute for another person and is a felony. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.455.) Pimping and pandering are proposed sexual transactions for money between two persons other than the pimp/panderer, who acts as a "middle-man/woman."
Inducing a woman to "become" a prostitute is a felony in Michigan. But, pandering on behalf of a woman who already works as a prostitute (or soliciting such a person to perform sex for money), while illegal, is not an "inducement" to "become" a prostitute under Michigan law.
A person convicted in Michigan of knowingly sharing in the earnings of a female prostitute is guilty of a felony. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.457.)
Michigan law does not specifically criminalize pimping or pandering of male prostitutes, although the statute on solicitation is gender-neutral and would apply to male prostitutes. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.448.)
It is a felony for any person to knowingly transport a female within, through, or into the state of Michigan for the purpose of prostitution. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.459.) Michigan law does not similarly punish a person who transports a male for prostitution.
Keeping a "bawdy house" (yes, that is the term used in the law!), or house of prostitution, in Michigan is a felony. The law makes it a crime to set up or operate any place for purpose of prostitution. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.452.)
It is a misdemeanor in Michigan for a person to rent her property to another with knowledge that the tenant intends to use the property for prostitution. So, heads-up Michigan landlords: If a tenant hangs a sign reading, "House of the Rising Sun" on your rental unit, time to evict or you may face a criminal charge.
Certain defenses are available to a person charged with prostitution, solicitation, pimping, pandering, and related crimes under Michigan law. Here are a few of them.
Michigan law defines "knowing" as "having reasonable cause to believe." Prostitution and related crimes require knowledge that sex is being offered in exchange for pay. Where a person hits on another person in a bar, even if her come-on is quite explicit, there is no crime unless money is offered for sex (or vice versa).
In order to convict a person of pimping, a Michigan prosecutor must prove that the person knew that the other person earning the money had earned it from prostitution. So, where the prosecutor does not prove such knowledge, the person charged will be acquitted.
Simply picking up a female hitchhiker, while probably a bad idea for everyone involved, is not a crime unless the driver intends to transport the woman in Michigan for the purpose of prostitution.
Prostitution itself does not occur unless a sexual act is committed for pay. But, solicitation, pimping, pandering, transporting a female for prostitution, and maintaining a house of prostitution may occur even if no sexual conduct actually takes place. Where the intent behind the actions of pimping, etc., is to commit prostitution, a crime has occurred under Michigan law even if no sexual act takes place. Many police sting operations target this type of violation.
Sometimes it's difficult to prove that the items received by the alleged prostitute was payment or a fee. For example, when Bruce Springsteen sings that Candy's other men "bring her toys," the strong implication is that she is getting goods for sex. If Candy in fact had sex with the Boss's rivals in return for anything of value, she engaged in prostitution. But, if Candy had a string of lovers who were generous with gifts while not directly exchanging them for sexual acts, she was just a "Material Girl" with an eye for big spenders.
The penalties for prostitution and related crimes differ based on the particular crime. As noted above, if the victim is a minor, the penalties are increased substantially.
A first and second offense of prostitution or solicitation are misdemeanor crimes in Michigan, although the penalty goes up on the second offense. A person convicted of a first offense of prostitution or solicitation may be sentenced to not more than 93 days in jail, a fine of not more than $500, or both. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.451(1).) A person convicted of a second offense of prostitution or solicitation may be sentenced to not more than one year in prison, a fine of not more than $1,000, or both. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.451 (2).)
A person charged with third or subsequent offense of prostitution or solicitation may face a felony conviction. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.451(3).) A person convicted of a third or subsequent offense of prostitution or solicitation may be sentenced to not more than two years in prison, a fine of not more than $2,000, or both.
Pandering and receiving the earnings of a female prostitute are felonies in Michigan. A person convicted of pandering or receiving the earnings of a female prostitute may receive a sentence of not more than 20 years in prison. (Mich. Comp. Laws § § 750.455, 750.457.)
A person who transports a female within, through, or into Michigan for the purpose of prostitution is guilty of a felony and may receive a sentence of not more than 20 years in prison. (Mich. Comp. Laws § § 750.459.)
Anyone who knowingly leases a place for purposes of prostitution in Michigan is guilty of a misdemeanor and may receive a sentence of not more than six months in prison or a fine of not more than $750. (Mich. Comp. Laws § § 750.454.)
Anyone who operates a place of prostitution in Michigan is guilty of a felony and may receive a sentence of not more than five years in prison, or a fine of not more than $2,500. (Mich. Comp. Laws § § 750.452.)
All schools in Michigan are required to run a criminal history check on applicants for employment. Anyone with a conviction of pandering or soliciting will be barred from working in a school in Michigan in any capacity. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 380.1230.) And, anyone charged with pandering or soliciting while working in a school must be suspended pending trial on the charge. If the person is convicted of the charge, the school will terminate his or her employment.
A person convicted of soliciting or pandering in Michigan will also be designated a "sex offender" under Michigan law. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 28.722.)
In addition to any prison sentence and/or fine, this designation requires that the offender's name(s), addresses, fingerprints, and other identifying information be placed on a public database and with local police departments. Registered sex offenders are restricted in where they can live, work, and even just hang out in Michigan.
If you have been charged with prostitution, prostitution-related crime, or any other sexual crime, see a lawyer experienced in criminal defense law in Michigan. If you are charged with any crime that carries the possible requirement that you register as a sex offender, it is imperative that you seek legal advice. Registering as a sex offender severely limits where you can work, live, and spend time, and it follows you even after the end of the registration period specified in the statute because it remains on your record. Do not delay in finding a lawyer.