Prostitution Laws in New York

In New York, prostitution is a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to three months in jail and a fine of up to $500.

New York has laws against both buying and selling sex.

For more information on prostitution laws generally, see Prostitution.

In New York, a person commits the crime of prostitution by engaging in (or offering or agreeing to engage in) any sex act in return for a fee.

New York’s prostitution law applies only to people who sell sex. People who buy sex can be convicted of patronizing (see below).

Getting out of prostitution

Many people engage in prostitution because they think there are no other alternatives. If you are involved in prostitution and would like to stop, there are organizations that can help you.

Prostitution in a School Zone

Prostitution committed by a person age 19 or older near a school during school hours or where schoolchildren can see the act of prostitution is punished more severely.

(N.Y Pen. Law § § 230.00, 230.03.)

Patronizing Prostitution

A “john” commits the crime of patronizing prostitution by:

  • paying a fee with an understanding that it is compensation for sexual conduct
  • paying (or agreeing to pay) a fee with an understanding that, in return, the person (or a third person) will engage in sexual conduct with the defendant, or
  • soliciting or requesting that another engage in sexual conduct for a fee.

The crime of patronizing prostitution is punished more severely if:

  • the defendant is over the age of 18 and the prostitute is under the age of 14, or
  • the prostitute is under the age of 11.

(N.Y Pen. Law § § 230.02, 230.05, 230.06.)

Promoting Prostitution

Laws against promoting prostitution (also called pimping or pandering) are aimed at third parties who facilitate or make money from the prostitution of others.

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

Defenses

The gender of the buyer and seller are immaterial to charges of prostitution and patronizing under New York’s laws.

It is a defense to a charge of patronizing a prostitute under the age of 14 (or 11) if the defendant did not have reason to believe the prostitute was under the specified age.

(N.Y Pen. Law § § 230.07, 230.10.)

For example, if the prostitute was not advertised as being 13, looked older than 13, and did not tell the “john” that he or she was only 13, this could provide a defense to a charge of patronizing a prostitute under the age of 14.

Punishment

Prostitution is a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to three months in jail and a fine of up to $500. Prostitution in a school zone is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

Patronizing prostitution is also a class A misdemeanor.

Patronizing a prostitute under the age of 14 is a class E felony, punishable by up to four years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. Patronizing a prostitute under the age of 11 is a class D felony, punishable by up to seven years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $5,000.

(N.Y Pen. Law § § 70.00, 70.15, 80.00, 80.05, 230.00, 230.03, 230.04, 230.05, 230.06.)

Sex offender registration

People convicted of patronizing prostituted children under the age of 17 are required to register as sex offenders in New York.

(N.Y Cor. Law § § 168-A, 168-F.)

Job loss

The commissioner of education will also revoke the teaching certificate of any teacher required to register as a sex offender.

(N.Y Edn. Law § 305.)

Similar laws may apply to other professional licenses.

Getting Legal Advice and Counsel

Being convicted of prostitution or patronizing can have serious consequences, including time in prison or jail, a fine, and a criminal record. If you are charged with a crime, you should contact a New York criminal defense attorney. An attorney can tell your case is likely to fare in court and help you achieve the best possible outcome.

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