Prostitution, Pimping, and Pandering Laws in New Jersey

While most acts of prostitution are disorderly person offenses, many other prostitution crimes are indictable offenses.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated May 30, 2024

New Jersey's prostitution laws cover a wide range of offenses. While most acts of prostitution are disorderly person offenses, many other prostitution crimes are indictable offenses.

Is Prostitution Legal in New Jersey?

No. Prostitution—exchanging sexual conduct for compensation—is not legal in New Jersey. State law prohibits a person from selling, buying, profiting from, promoting, or compelling prostitution services.

Unlike many states, New Jersey still allows minors younger than 18 to be prosecuted for prostitution offenses. In certain cases, a minor can defend against the charges by showing they are a victim of human trafficking.

New Jersey's Prostitution Laws

New Jersey prohibits the following prostitution offenses:

  • engaging, offering, or agreeing to engage in prostitution (prostitute)
  • hiring or offering to hire a prostitute (patron)
  • soliciting or procuring customers for prostitution (promoting)
  • causing, encouraging, or compelling someone to be a prostitute (promoting), or
  • operating, managing, or allowing a house of prostitution.

The harshest penalties apply to prostitution offenses involving minors younger than 18.

(N.J. Rev. Stat. §§ 2C:34-1, 2C:34-1.1 (2024).)

What Are the Penalties for Prostitution in New Jersey?

A person who engages or agrees to engage in sexual activities for compensation commits a disorderly persons offense, punishable by up to six months of jail time and a $1,000 fine. Sexual activities include sexual intercourse, oral sex, anal sex, masturbation, and touching of another's intimate parts. It's also a disorderly persons offense to loiter in a public place for purposes of engaging in prostitution.

Repeat convictions for prostitution can result in charges for a crime of the fourth degree. This offense level carries up to 18 months of incarceration.

(N.J. Stat. §§ 2C:34-1, 2C:34:1.1 (2024).)

What Are the Penalties for Patronizing a Prostitute in New Jersey?

Patronizing (being a customer of) a prostitute starts as a disorderly person offense but quickly increases to an indictable offense for repeat convictions and acts involving minors younger than 18.

Patron: Acts Involving an Adult

A patron faces a disorderly persons offense for a first conviction. A second or third conviction carries penalties for a crime of the fourth degree, punishable by 18 months' incarceration and fines. Fourth and subsequent convictions increase to a crime of third degree. A person convicted of a crime of the third degree faces 3 to 5 years in prison, plus fines.

Patron: Acts Involving a Minor

Penalties for patrons increase to a crime of the second degree if the patron:

  • engages in sexual activity with a minor
  • enters or remains in a house of prostitution with the purpose of engaging in sex with a minor, or
  • solicits or requests sexual activity with a minor.

Mistake of age isn't a defense for these charges. Second-degree crimes carry prison sentences of 5 to 10 years and fines. In addition, for these crimes involving minors, a judge must order a patron to pay a penalty of $25,000 to $50,000.

(N.J. Stat. § 2C:34-1 (2024).)

What Are the Penalties for Promoting Prostitution in New Jersey?

Anyone who promotes prostitution commits an indictable offense.

Crime of the Fourth Degree

If the defendant arranges services between an adult prostitute and a patron, it's a crime of the fourth degree, punishable by 18 months of incarceration and fines.

Crime of the Third Degree

Promotion offenses involving the following acts are crimes of the third degree:

  • arranging prostitution services of one's spouse
  • procuring a prostitute for a house of prostitution
  • encouraging, inducing, compelling, or causing a person to become or remain a prostitute
  • transporting a person into or within New Jersey for purposes of prostitution, or
  • owning, managing, or permitting a place to be used as a house of prostitution.

A crime of the third degree can mean 3 to 5 years in prison and fines.

Crime of the First Degree

The harshest penalties apply to promotion offenses involving a minor (younger than 18) for any of the acts listed above. Mistake of age is not a defense. A defendant convicted of a crime of the first degree faces 10 to 20 years behind bars.

Promotion Penalties

On top of fines and incarceration, the judge must order a person convicted of a promotion offense to pay a minimum penalty of $10,000 and a maximum of $50,000.

(N.J. Stat. § 2C:34-1 (2024).)

Other Penalties for Prostitution-Related Offenses in New Jersey

A person convicted of prostitution-related offenses can face more than incarceration and fines.

Racketeering Charges

When organized crime is involved, a prosecutor may bring racketeering charges against a person engaging in promoting prostitution under New Jersey's RICO laws.

License Suspension

When a vehicle is used in any prostitution offense, the court will suspend the defendant's license for six months.

Forfeiture

Any property used by, or money or other property earned in, a prostitution violation may be forfeited (taken by police without compensation to the owner).

(N.J. Stat. §§ 2C:34-1, 2C:41-1, 2C:64-1 (2024).)

Getting Legal Advice and Counsel

If you are charged with any crime related to prostitution, contact a criminal defense attorney in New Jersey.

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