Though prostitution is a crime under federal law and in all states other than Nevada, certain conduct related to it is treated far more severely than the act itself. Pimping and pandering laws are designed to curb prostitution—and to protect people who might take part in it—by punishing those who exploit, facilitate, or knowingly benefit from the sex trade.
States usually classify pimping and pandering offenses as felonies, meaning that these crimes carry harsher penalties than those classified as misdemeanors. When pimps or panderers target minors, whether the offense occurs at the federal or state level, the penalties are far more stringent than when adults are involved.
Pimping principally consists of receiving, either directly or indirectly, a prostitute’s earnings. It also encompasses the act of asking for or receiving money in exchange for soliciting for a prostitute. Pandering, on the other hand, involves the practice of procuring a person to be used for, or to travel for, prostitution. It also includes inducing, encouraging, or forcing someone to engage in or continue to engage in prostitution. Pimping and pandering often occur together, for example, when a defendant attempts to convince a woman to work for him as a prostitute (pandering) and proposes to share in her profits (pimping).
Pandering does not occur when someone unintentionally causes another person to engage in prostitution; it requires that the defendant specifically intend that that person offer sex for money. But, so long as the defendant has the requisite intent, it is no defense that his efforts were unsuccessful. Accordingly, a defendant may be convicted of pandering even though he attempted to persuade an undercover police officer who never intended to engage in prostitution.
It is no defense for a panderer that his or her target sought out a prostitution arrangement. For example, contacting someone who has posted an advertisement for prostitution and attempting to convince her to engage in sex for money constitutes a pandering violation. Nor is it a defense that the panderer didn’t receive any compensation for his efforts -- an exchange of money is not required for a conviction.
The terms “pimping” and “pandering” often overlap, and in certain states, are synonymous. Statutes may alternatively use terms such as “promoting” or “procuring” prostitution. Regardless of the technical terms employed, these laws are all directed at the same category of behavior—that is, commercial exploitation of the sex trade. Other illegal acts by prostitution intermediaries include:
Federal law prohibits transporting a person across state lines or into the country while intending for that person to partake in the sex trade. For example, it is a federal offense to persuade someone from another country to move to the United States in order to become a prostitute.
Choose your state from the list below to find information about your states laws regarding prostitution.