Prostitution, Pimping, and Pandering Laws in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, prostitution (engaging in sex in exchange for money) is against the law. It is also a crime to hire a prostitute, or make money from or promote prostitution.

For more information on prostitution laws generally, see Prostitution.

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.

(18 Pa. Con. Stat. § 5902.)

In Pennsylvania, only people who sell sex can be convicted of the crime of prostitution. People who buy sex can be convicted of patronizing (see below). The penalties for prostitution and patronizing are the same.

Patronizing

A person engages in the crime of patronizing if he or she hires a prostitute – or other person – to engage in sexual activity; or enters or remains in a house of prostitution to hire a prostitute.

(18 Pa. Con. Stat. § 5902.)

For example, a person who “hired” an undercover officer to engage in sexual conduct and was arrested before anything indecent happened could probably still be convicted of patronizing.

Promoting Prostitution

Laws against promoting prostitution (sometimes called pimping or pandering) are aimed at third parties who benefit from or help others commit prostitution. In order to be convicted of promoting, the defendant must be aware that prostitution is occurring.

For more information on these crimes, see Pimping and Pandering.

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

  • owning or managing a house of prostitution or prostitution business
  • procuring a person for a house of prostitution
  • encouraging or causing a person to become or remain a prostitute
  • finding a customer for a prostitute or a prostitute for a customer
  • transporting (or arranging the transportation of) a person into or across Pennsylvania for the purpose of prostitution
  • leasing or otherwise allowing property under the defendant’s control to be used for prostitution without making an effort to stop the 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.

For example, a person who owns a massage parlor and allows prostitutes to rent space there, knowing that they are engaging in prostitution, and fails to stop them, evict them, or call the police can be charged with promoting.

Child Prostitution

Promoting prostitution is punished more severely if the person who is prostituted is under the age of 18.

(18 Pa. Con. Stat. § 5902.)

HIV/AIDS Infection

Under Pennsylvania’s laws, prostitution, patronizing prostitution, and promoting prostitution are punished more severely if the defendant knows that he or she or the person whose prostitution the defendant is promoting is infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

(18 Pa. Con. Stat. § 5902.)

For more information, see Transmitting an STD in Pennsylvania.

Punishment

Prostitution and patronizing are punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. Subsequent offenses are punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000.

Unless it is punished more severely (see below) promoting prostitution is punishable by up to three years' imprisonment and a fine of up to $5,000.

The following crimes are punishable as felonies by up to seven years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000:

  • prostitution and patronizing when infected with HIV/AIDS
  • promoting the prostitution of a person infected with HIV/AIDS
  • owning or managing a house of prostitution or prostitution business
  • procuring a person for prostitution
  • encouraging or causing a person to become or remain a prostitute
  • compelling another to engage in or promote prostitution
  • promoting the prostitution of a spouse, child, or other person for whom the defendant is responsible, and
  • promoting the prostitution of a minor.

(18 Pa. Con. Stat. § § 1101, 1103, 1104, 5902.)

Publication

In addition to other criminal penalties, the court must publish in the local paper the name of “johns” convicted of patronizing more than once. The defendant must pay the cost of publication.

(18 Pa. Con. Stat. § 5902.)

Sex offender registration

People convicted of promoting the prostitution of a minor in Pennsylvania are required to register as sex offenders for 25 years following their release from prison or probation.

(42 Pa. Con. Stat. § § 9795.1, 9795.2, 9799.11, 9799.14, 9799.15.)

Other consequences

People convicted of felony prostitution offenses are ineligible for employment in Pennsylvania’s public and private schools and any conviction by a school employee must be reported to the state licensing board.

(24 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § § 1-111, 2070.9b.)

Similar laws may also apply to other professions.

Seeking Legal Advice and Representation

A criminal conviction related to prostitution can have very serious consequences, including time in prison or jail, hefty fines, job loss, and even sex offender registration. If you are charged with a crime, you should contact a criminal defense attorney in Pennsylvania. An experienced defense attorney will be able to tell you what to expect in court and make the strongest arguments on your behalf so that you can achieve the best outcome possible under the circumstances.

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