Prostitution, Pimping, and Pandering Laws in Minnesota

Prostitution is a crime in Minnesota, as in most states. Where the person offering sex for money and the person offering money for sex are over 18, it’s a misdemeanor. Those who pimp, solicit, or traffic others to act as prostitutes face greater penalties than prostitutes and their patrons, or “johns,” do. And, Minnesota law imposes even greater penalties for prostitution involving a minor.

A person convicted of certain prostitution-related crimes may have to register as a predatory offender in Minnesota.

For more information on the crimes of prostitution, solicitation, pimping, and pandering in general, see Prostitution.

What is Prostitution in Minnesota?

Prostitution is defined by Minnesota law from the perspective of both the prostitute and the patron or john. Persons commit the misdemeanor of prostitution in Minnesota by offering or agreeing to exchange sexual penetration or sexual contact for money, or by offering or agreeing to exchange money for sexual penetration or sexual contact. (Minn. Stat. Ann. § 609.321 Subd. 9.)

A person who has a prior prostitution conviction within the past two years may be charged with a gross misdemeanor. (Minn. Stat. Ann. § 609.324 Subd. 3 (b).)

Engaging in prostitution with a person under 18 may result in a felony charge, and the penalties increase if the victim is under 16, or under 13. (Minn. Stat. Ann. § 609.324 Subd. 1.)

Penalties also increase where the prostitution occurs in a public place or a car.

“Sexual penetration”

Under Minnesota law, sexual penetration is:

  • sexual intercourse
  • cunnilingus
  • fellatio
  • anal intercourse, or
  • any intrusion however slight into the genital or anal openings of an individual’s body by any part of another individual’s body or any object.

The crime is complete when done for the purpose of satisfying sexual impulses. “Sexual penetration” does not require the emission of semen under Minnesota law. (Minn. Stat. Ann. § 609.321 Subd. 11.)

“Sexual contact”

Under Minnesota law, sexual contact is:

  • intentional touching by an individual of a prostitute’s intimate parts, or
  • intentional touching by a prostitute of another individual’s intimate parts.

Contact is established if such touching can reasonably be construed as being done for the purpose of satisfying sexual impulses. (Minn. Stat. Ann. § 609.321 Subd. 10.)

What is Promotion of Prostitution in Minnesota?

A person who “promotes the prostitution” of another person, in other words, acts as a “pimp” or “madam,” may be charged with a felony in Minnesota.

Under Minnesota law, a person is guilty of promotion of prostitution when that person intentionally

  • solicits or induces an individual to practice prostitution
  • promotes the prostitution of an individual
  • receives profit, knowing or having reason to know, that it is derived from prostitution, or
  • engages in sex trafficking of an individual.

(Minn. Stat. Ann. § 609.322 Subd. 1a.)

The penalties for promoting the prostitution of a person under the age of 18 are greatly increased, as discussed below, and also increased where the offender has a prior promotion of prostitution or sex trafficking conviction. (Minn. Stat. Ann. § 609.322 Subd. 1(a).)

Loitering for prostitution

It is a misdemeanor for a person to loiter in a public place with the intent of engaging in prostitution. (Minn. Stat. Ann. § 609.3243.) An enhanced penalty applies if the loitering occurs near schools, parks, or bus stops, as discussed below.

Owning, leasing, operating a house for prostitution

Owning, operating, leasing, or allowing the use of any place for purpose of prostitution, referred to as a “disorderly house” in the law, is a gross misdemeanor in Minnesota. (Minn. Stat. Ann. § 609.33.)


Certain defenses are available to a person charged with prostitution, patronage of prostitutes, or promotion of prostitution and related crimes under Minnesota law. Here are a few of them.

Lack of intent or knowledge

In Minnesota, sexual contact must be “reasonably construed” as being for the purpose of satisfying sexual impulses in order to be an act of prostitution. Thus, although a gynecologist is paid to probe the genitalia of a patient, she is not engaging in prostitution. This is true even if the patient has a (highly unlikely) positive sexual response to the examination, because the purpose of the touching is not sexual satisfaction.

Some prostitution-related offenses in Minnesota require that the perpetrator have certain knowledge. For example, a person charged with receiving proceeds from prostitution must know or have reason to know that the money came from prostitution in order to be convicted.

Lack of sexual conduct is not a defense

A person may be charged in Minnesota with prostitution, patronizing a prostitute, promotion of prostitution, and/or maintaining a “disorderly house” even if no sexual conduct actually takes place. Where the intent behind the actions is to commit prostitution, a crime has occurred under Minnesota law. Many police sting operations target this type of violation and bait people into crossing the legal line.

Minnesota Courts Give Officers Great, But Not Unlimited, Latitude With Sting Operations

A Minnesota court found an officer’s request that a woman undress completely to be a legitimate part of an investigation, even though she had already agreed to sex for money. But, another court ruled in 2009 that a police officer violated the due process rights of a woman accused of prostitution when he asked to fondle her breast during a sting operation. The court found that the officer’s request was not necessary to the investigation and was outrageous.

Sex not “For Hire” is not prostitution

The tabloid headlines often insinuate that Madonna’s dancer/paramour is a mere (no doubt pricey) boy-toy. With the implication that he’s “servicing” the superstar in return for a ticket to the good life, you might think they could be busted for prostitution the next time she plays the Twin Cities. But no, because a cozy cohabitation between a rich person who showers a less-rich person with gifts, rent, and other goodies is considered a relationship under the law. Sometimes diamonds are a boy’s best friend, too.

How Are Prostitution-Related Crimes Punished in Minnesota?

Minnesota law specifies different penalties for prostitution and related crimes based on the particular crime. If the victim is a minor, the penalties are increased substantially.

Prostitution and patronizing

In Minnesota, a person who offers to perform a sexual act for money or offers money in exchange for a sexual act may be charged with a misdemeanor and face a jail sentence of not more than 90 days and a fine of not more than $1,000. (Minn. Stat. Ann. § 609.324.) Upon a second or subsequent conviction, or if the act of prostitution occurs in public, the person may be charged with a gross misdemeanor, which carries an increased penalty of imprisonment for not more than one year and a fine of not more than $3,000.

A person who engages in prostitution in a motor vehicle may receive a notation of the conviction on their driving record. (Minn. Stat. Ann. § 609.324 Subd. 5.) For a first offense, the notation is “private data,” available only to law enforcement officials. But, a subsequent offense may open the notation to public access.

Anyone who engages in prostitution with a person under the age of 13 faces a possible felony conviction and a possible sentence of up to 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $40,000, or both. If the victim is between 13 and 16 years of age, the offender may face a felony conviction and a possible sentence of up to 10 years, a fine up to $20,000, or both. And, if the victim is between 16 and 18 years of age, the offender may face a felony conviction and possible sentence of up to five years in prison, a fine up to $10,000, or both.

Patrons who solicit others for sex near schools, parks, or bus stops where children catch school buses face an increased penalty, as well. If convicted, a person charged with patronizing prostitution in such areas faces a felony conviction and a possible sentence of not more than two years in prison, a fine of not more than $4,000, or both.

Persons convicted as patrons of prostitution also must also pay an assessment (in addition to any fine) of between $500 and $1,000. Assessments are distributed to public programs dedicated to combating sexual exploitation of youth. (Minn. Stat. Ann. § 609.3241.)

Promotion of prostitution

A person who promotes prostitution (for example, as a pimp) may be charged with a felony in Minnesota and face a possible sentence of up to 15 years in prison, a fine up to $40,000, or both. The possible sentence is increased to not more than 20 years in prison and the fine to not more than $50,000 if the victim/prostitute is under the age of 18. If the offender has a prior promotion conviction, the possible sentence increases to up to 25 years in prison and the fine to not more than $60,000.

Persons convicted of promoting prostitution also must also pay an assessment (in addition to any fine) of between $500 and $1,000. (Minn. Stat. Ann. § 609.3241.)

Teachers with prostitution convictions

Under Minnesota law, conviction of a prostitution-related offense may be cause for the refusal to issue or renew, or revocation of, the offender’s teaching license. (Minn. Stat. Ann. § 122A.20.)

Predatory offender registration

A person convicted of soliciting a minor to engage in sex either as a patron or promoter of prostitution in Minnesota (or under a similar law in another state) will also be designated a “predatory offender.” (Minn. Stat. Ann. §243.166 Subd. 1b.)

In addition to any prison sentence and/or fine, this designation requires that the offender’s name(s), addresses, fingerprints, and other identifying information be registered with local police departments. Registered predatory offenders must report in person at least annually to local law enforcement agencies where they live, work, or go to school. Registration, reporting, and other requirements under the predatory offender law continue for ten years following the offender’s completion of the sentence for the original crime.

A person designated a predatory offender may also face involuntary civil commitment in a mental institution for an indeterminate period. For more information on civil commitment, see State Civil Commitment for Sex Offenders.

An Important Note on Local Legal Representation

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 registration period specified in the statute because it remains on your record. Do not delay in finding a lawyer.

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