Under most states and counties in the United States prostitution is illegal and punishable as a misdemeanor in most cases. Prostitution is defined as the act of offering, agreeing to or engaging in sexual acts or sexual contact for compensation.
Depending on the state, solicitation of prostitution can mean either when a prostitute advertises his or her availability to perform sexual acts for compensation, or when a potential patron offers to pay for sex.
Prostitution is illegal in 49 of the 50 states, Nevada being the sole exception. Those who oppose the criminalization of prostitution typically advocate one of two approaches: legalization (which involves regulation) or decriminalization (no regulation).
Law enforcement agencies often use -- and courts usually allow -- “sting” operations, where officers go undercover to catch people involved in the sex trade. Sting operations are a practical response to the way prostitution is carried out.
Until the 1990s, the American legal system punished people who supplied prostitution services, while the customers (or “johns”) were largely ignored. Prostitutes (and to a lesser extent pimps, promoters, and panderers) were arrested, prosecuted, and spent time in jail and prison, while the john went