Prostitution, Pimping, and Pandering Laws in Pennsylvania

Learn when prostitution offenses carry felony penalties in PA.

By , Attorney · UC Berkeley School of Law
Updated by Rebecca Pirius, Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated April 22, 2024

Pennsylvania has laws against exchanging money for sexual services, as well as profiting from the sale of sex. Acts of prostitution are generally misdemeanors, but other acts committed by those who promote or profit from prostitution can increase to felonies.

Is Prostitution Legal in Pennsylvania?

No, prostitution and related offenses are not legal in Pennsylvania. The state prohibits engaging in, patronizing, promoting, and living off of prostitution. Cities and towns may also have local ordinances that prohibit prostitution.

Pennsylvania Prostitution Laws and Penalties

Pennsylvania, like many states, prohibits and penalizes prostitution offenses committed by those who:

  • work as prostitutes
  • hire or patronize a prostitute
  • promote prostitution, or
  • compel prostitution.

The harshest penalties apply to offenses involving the prostitution of children.

What Are the Penalties for Prostitution and Patronizing a Prostitute in Pennsylvania?

Engaging in prostitution and patronizing a prostitute carry the same penalties in Pennsylvania. If the prostitute is a minor, safe harbor provisions may apply.

Prostitution and Patronizing a Prostitute

Under Pennsylvania's laws, a person commits the crime of prostitution by:

  • engaging in sexual activity for money, or
  • loitering in a public place (or in view of a public place) for the purpose of being hired for sexual activity.

A person engages in the crime of patronizing by hiring a prostitute (or any person) to engage in sexual activity or by entering or remaining in a house of prostitution for that purpose.

Penalties for Prostitution and Patronizing Offenses

First and second offenses for prostitution or patronizing a prostitute are misdemeanors of the third degree, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. A third conviction increases to a misdemeanor of the second degree with penalties of up to two years' incarceration and a $5,000 fine. All fourth and subsequent convictions are misdemeanors of the first degree. This misdemeanor level carries penalties of up to five years of incarceration and a $10,000 fine.

Safe Harbor Provisions for Child Prostitutes (Sexually Exploited Children)

Pennsylvania law provides protections for sexually exploited children, which includes child prostitutes and child victims of sexual trafficking. The law prohibits prosecution of child prostitutes and allows their detainment by law enforcement only as long as necessary to provide them with specialized services.

(18 Pa. C.S.A. §§ 1101, 1103, 1104, 3001, 3065, 5902 (2024).)

What Are the Penalties for Promoting Prostitution in Pennsylvania?

Laws against promoting prostitution (sometimes called pimping or pandering) are aimed at third parties who benefit from or arrange for others to commit prostitution. To be convicted of promoting, the defendant must be aware that prostitution is occurring. It's always a felony when an offense involves a minor younger than 18.

Promoting Prostitution Offenses

In Pennsylvania, a person commits the crime of promoting prostitution by:

  • owning or managing a house of prostitution or prostitution business
  • procuring a prostitute for a house of prostitution
  • inducing or causing a person to become or remain a prostitute
  • arranging services between a prostitute and patron (customer)
  • transporting (or arranging the transportation of) a person into or within the Commonwealth for the purpose of prostitution
  • leasing or otherwise allowing property under the defendant's control to be used for prostitution or failing to stop such use
  • living off of or being supported by money earned from prostitution, or
  • soliciting, making money, or agreeing to receive money to do any of the above.

These crimes carry both misdemeanor and felony penalties.

Penalties for Promoting Prostitution of an Adult

It's a felony of the third degree to compel any person to engage in prostitution or to own, manage, or hire for a house of prostitution. Promoting one's spouse, child, or dependent also carries these felony penalties. Felonies of the third degree carry up to seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine.

All other promoting offenses are misdemeanors of the second degree unless it involves a minor. A person convicted of a second-degree misdemeanor faces up to two years of jail time and a $5,000 fine.

Penalties for Promoting Prostitution of a Minor

A person convicted of promoting prostitution of a minor commits a felony of the third degree. This felony carries penalties of up to seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine. The person must also register as a sex offender for 25 years following their release from prison or probation.

(18 Pa. C.S.A. §§ 1101, 1103, 1104, 5902; 42 Pa. C.S.A. §§ 9799.14, 9799.15 (2024).)

Seeking Legal Advice and Representation

A criminal conviction related to prostitution can have serious consequences, including time in prison or jail, hefty fines, and even sex offender registration. You can also lose your professional license or eligibility to be employed in certain positions. If you're facing criminal charges or an investigation, contact a criminal defense attorney.

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