Prostitution Laws in Missouri

In Missouri, it is a crime to buy or sell sex for money.

For more information on prostitution laws generally, see Prostitution.

People commit the crime of prostitution in Missouri by engaging in, offering, or agreeing to engage in sexual conduct in exchange for money or something else of value.

(Mo. Rev. Stat. § § 567.010, 567.020.)

Missouri’s prostitution law applies onlyto people who sell sex. People who buy sex, sometimes called “johns,” can be convicted of patronizing (see below).

Getting out of prostitution

Many people engage in prostitution because they think they have no alternative. If you are involved in prostitution and would like to get help, there are organizations that can assist you.

Patronizing

A person commits the crime of patronizing a prostitute in Missouri by:

  • giving money or something else of value in compensation for sexual conduct
  • giving money or something else of value, or agreeing to do so, with an understanding that sexual conduct will be received in return, or
  • soliciting or requesting sexual conduct in return for money or something else of value.

Patronizing is punished more severely if the person prostituted is under the age of 18.

(Mo. Rev. Stat. § § 567.010, 567.030.)

Under Missouri’s laws, no sexual conduct needs to occur for a person to be convicted of patronizing or prostitution.For example, a john who propositions an undercover police officer could be convicted of patronizing.

Promoting Prostitution

Laws against promoting prostitution are aimed at third parties who facilitate or make money from prostitution.

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

HIV Infection

In Missouri, the crime of prostitution is punished more severely if the prostitute knows that he or she is infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

This increased penalty applies only to prostitutes, not “johns.”

(Mo. Rev. Stat. § 567.020.)

For more information, see Transmitting an STD in Missouri.

Defenses

The sex of the participants is immaterial to prostitution prosecutions in Missouri.

It is not a defense to a charge of patronizing a minor that the defendant believed the prostitute to be over 18 years old.

It is not a defense to the crime of prostitution with HIV that the defendant used a condom.

(Mo. Rev. Stat. § § 567.020, 567.030, 567.040.)

Punishment

Prostitution is a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $500. The court may also require the defendant to participate in drug or alcohol treatment.

Patronizing a prostitute is also a class B misdemeanor.

Patronizing a person under the age of 18 but older than 14 is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

Patronizing a person under the age of 14 is a class D felony, punishable by up to four years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000; and the defendant can also be prosecuted for statutory rape.

A person who is found guilty of prostitution or patronizing and has two or more convictions for prostitution or related crimes is guilty of being a persistent prostitution offender, a class D felony punishable by up to four years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000 or twice the amount of money the defendant made from the crime (up to $20,000).

Exposing another to HIV through prostitution is also a class B felony, punishable by five to fifteen years’ imprisonment.

(Mo. Rev. Stat. § § 558.011, 560.011, 560.016, 567.010, 567.020, 567.030, 567.110.)

HIV testing

The court can order HIV testing for any person who is convicted of a second or subsequent prostitution-related crime.

(Mo. Rev. Stat. § 567.120.)

Other consequences

The Missouri State Board of Education may revoke or refuse to issue or renew a teaching certificate to any person who is convicted of a crime of moral turpitude.

(Mo. Rev. Stat. § 168.071.)

Generally, prostitution and related crimes are considered crimes of moral turpitude.

Similar provisions may apply to other state licenses.

Obtaining Legal Advice and Representation

If you are charged with prostitution or a related crime, you should contact a Missouri criminal defense attorney immediately. A conviction can result in time in jail or prison, a fine, and a criminal record, which can make it difficult to obtain a job, a professional license, or even housing. With an attorney’s help, you can hopefully obtain the best possible outcome in your case.

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