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Child Prostitution is a Federal Crime

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 sex act.”

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!