Prostitution may be one of the oldest occupations ever to exist, but it’s still
criminalized under state law. Many wonder why exchanging money for sex
is criminalized and much of it has to do with sexually transmitted diseases
– plus prostitutes don’t pay income tax on their “services.”
The government has a way of criminalizing activities it cannot easily control.
In general, prostitution and solicitation (offering a sex act in exchange
for money) are minor offenses in California when they involve prostitutes
who are age 18 or older. Whether the offender is a prostitute or a customer
(a John), a first offense is a misdemeanor; however, the penalties increase
for each subsequent offense. On the other hand, if the prostitute is a
minor (under the age of 18), the offense is much more serious.
Commercial Sex With Minors
Under 18 U.S.C. § 1591, the prostitution of children is prohibited by
federal law. Under this statute, it’s a federal crime to knowingly obtain, provide,
transport, entice, harbor, or maintain a child under the age of 18 for
the purpose of having the child engage in a “commercial sex act.”
Under this law, a commercial sex act is not limited to sexual intercourse;
it is a broad definition that includes any sex act that is exchanged for
something of value.
It is against federal law to:
- Offer a child for prostitution or any sex act,
- Obtain a child for an illegal sex act,
- Cause a child to engage in any type of sexual activity in exchange for
something of value, such as drugs, money, a personal benefit, or a similar favor.
Section 1591 is officially known as “Sex trafficking of children
by force, fraud, or coercion.” Even though people think of “trafficking”
as moving victims across state lines or international borders, Sec. 1591
has no requirement that the victim be moved across state borders or be
brought in the United States from a foreign country.
What if the Minor Was a Willing Participant?
Sometimes minors are runaways and they get into the prostitution on their
own free will. In these situations, many Johns feel as if what they did
was justified because the minor was a willing participant. Sometimes even,
the sex act was the young prostitute’s idea.
Under Sec. 1591, the minor’s consent is irrelevant. All that matters
is that the John engaged in an illegal sex act with a minor. According to the
United States Department of Justice, “When the victim is a minor, Section 1591 does not require proof
that the defendant used force, threats of force, fraud, or coercion, or
any combination of those means, to cause the minor to engage in a commercial
Are you facing state or federal charges for an offense related to prostitution? If so,
contact our Orange County criminal defense firm at once for assistance!