If the “Pretty Woman” played by Julia Roberts and the dashing corporate raider played by Richard Gere had met in Maryland for their posh “dates,” they both could have done time.
In Maryland, prostitution, pimping (receiving the earnings of a prostitute), and pandering (procuring a sexual act for pay from another) of adults are misdemeanor crimes. The crimes are increased to felonies, with greater penalties, where they involve minors.
A person convicted of certain prostitution-related crimes may have to register as a sex offender under Maryland law.
For more information on the crimes of prostitution, pimping, and pandering in general, see Prostitution.
Maryland law defines prostitution as a sexual act, sexual contact, or vaginal intercourse exchanged for money. (Md. Code Ann. [Crim. Law], § 11-301.) In Maryland, a person commits the misdemeanor when he or she knowingly:
The sections below explain in detail the meaning of the key terms in this definition.
(Md. Code Ann. [Crim. Law], § 11-306.)
Under Maryland law, a “sexual act” refers to acts other than vaginal intercourse:
These acts are considered “sexual acts” regardless of whether ejaculation occurs. A sexual act does not include penetration by an object or body part for an accepted medical purpose under Maryland law.
By including any act done to abuse either person, Maryland has outlawed sadomasochistic acts done for money (such as by a “dominatrix” for hire). Such acts would violate the law even though no nudity or sexual contact between the parties occurred. Of course, such acts (like any other consensual sexual acts between adults) are not illegal if they are not done in exchange for money.
(Md. Code Ann. [Crim. Law], § 3-301(e).)
Maryland law defines “sexual contact” as intentional touching of the victim’s or actor’s genital, anal, or other intimate area for sexual arousal or gratification; or for the abuse of either person. Again, contact for an accepted medical purpose is not “sexual contact” under Maryland law, nor is contact that is a common expression of familial or friendly affection.
(Md. Code [Crim. Law], § 3-301(f).)
Under Maryland law, “vaginal intercourse” is defined as genital copulation with penetration of the vagina, however slight, whether or not ejaculation has occurred. (Md. Code [Crim. Law], § 3-301(g).)
Maryland defines "knowingly" for use in criminal law as a situation where a person is:
Additionally, where knowledge of a particular fact is an element of a crime and a person is practically certain of the existence of that fact, he acts knowingly. For example, a landlord who rents to a tenant who puts a neon sign in the window saying, “Pleasure Palace—adult massage,” posts ads for “erotic masseuse” services in local papers and online, and pays in cash could be deemed to be practically certain that she is renting to someone using the property for prostitution.
(Md. Code Ann. [Crim. Law], § 7-102(b).)
Maryland law defines “assignation” as setting up an appointment or meeting for prostitution, or doing any act that assists such assignation. (Md. Code Ann. [Crim. Law], § 11-301(b).)
Maryland law does not use the term “pimp” or “pimping,” but does make it a misdemeanor for anyone to receive money earned by another person from prostitution with the intent to:
(Md. Code Ann. [Crim. Law], § 11-304.)
Maryland law does not use the term “pandering” but does outlaw “human trafficking.” A person is guilty of the misdemeanor of human trafficking if she knowingly:
(Md. Code Ann. [Crim. Law], § 11-303.)
Anyone who receives money or anything of value by participating in a venture that includes one of the prohibited acts (operating a prostitution ring, for example) is also guilty of the crime of human trafficking and subject to the penalties under this law.
Where the victim of human trafficking is a minor, a person violating this law is guilty of a felony and faces an increased penalty (discussed below). A minor is a person under the age of 18.
Under Maryland law, to “procure” another person for prostitution means to make the person available to engage in prostitution.
Maryland law defines a sexually explicit performance as a live, photographed, recorded, or videotaped act (public or private), in which the performer is totally or partially nude, and that is intended to sexually arouse or appeal to the viewers’ prurient interest. (Md. Code Ann. [Crim. Law], § 11-301.)
A person may be prosecuted for misdemeanor prostitution and related crimes (including misdemeanor human trafficking and solicitation) at any time following the incident. This means that there is no statute of limitations on a prosecutor bringing such a charge. It’s very rare for a criminal offense to have no statute of limitation (murder is a common example). ((Md. Code Ann. [Courts], § 5-106(b).)
Certain defenses are available to a person charged with prostitution and related crimes under Maryland law. Here are a few of them.
Where a person charged in Maryland had no intent to engage in sex for money or knowledge that sex for money was being offered, he can argue this lack of “knowing” conduct as a defense. Knowing conduct can be shown by words indicating sex for money or by actions, such as where the person charged touches the other person in a suggestive manner (for example, placing a hand on the inner thigh).
In order to convict a person of receiving earnings from a person engaged prostitution (pimping), a Maryland prosecutor must prove that the person intended to profit from the crime of prostitution or launder money earned from prostitution. So, where the prosecutor does not prove such intent, the person charged will be acquitted. Lack of intent or knowledge of the source of money earned via prostitution is a defense to this charge.
Sometimes a masseuse is just a masseuse. If parties engage in non-sexual, physical contact (such as that between a therapeutic masseuse and client), Maryland law has not been broken.
Kanye West was saying “she’s a gold-digger,” despite his protestations. But, he wasn’t saying she was a prostitute because, legally, she wasn’t. The fictional woman in the song had sex with wealthy men for the money they would spend on her; however, this is not “sex for hire” as it is defined in Maryland because it was not an explicit quid-pro-quo (“I will have sex with you for $100”).
The penalties for prostitution and related crimes differ based on the particular crime and, in the case of human trafficking, on the age of the victim.
Prostitution is a misdemeanor crime in Maryland. A person convicted of the misdemeanor of prostitution may be sentenced to up to one year in prison or a fine of up to $500, or both.
Human trafficking is a misdemeanor crime in Maryland if the victim is an adult, but the crime carries a severe penalty: A person convicted of misdemeanor human trafficking may be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison or a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
Where the victim of human trafficking is a minor, the crime is a felony and a person convicted of felony human trafficking may be sentenced to up to 25 years in prison or a fine of up to $15,000, or both.
Receiving the earnings of a person engaged in prostitution is a misdemeanor crime in Maryland, but also carries a severe penalty. A person convicted of the misdemeanor of receiving the earnings of a prostitute may be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison or a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
A person convicted of prostitution or a prostitution-related offense where the prostitute or victim is a minor will also be designated a “sex offender” under Maryland law. In addition to any prison sentence and/or fine, this designation requires the convicted person to register as a sex offender with the law enforcement agency in his or her county of residence within three days of release from prison. And, the convicted sex offender must re-register every six months for a period of fifteen years. To register, the convicted sex offender must provide:
(Md. Code Ann. [Crim. Procedure], § § 11-701, 11-706.) The local law enforcement agency will then make the offender’s registration information available to the public and post identifying information about the offender on the internet.
Registered sex offenders are barred from holding certain jobs (such as jobs at public or private schools or daycare centers), and from entering school or daycare premises.
If you have been charged with prostitution, prostitution-related crime, or any other sexual crime, see a lawyer experienced in criminal defense law in the state in which you were charged. If you are charged with any crime that carries the possible requirement that you register as a sex offender, it is imperative that you seek legal advice. Registering as a sex offender severely limits where you can work, live, and spend time, and it follows you even after the end of the fifteen years specified in the statute, because it remains on your record. Do not delay in finding a lawyer.