What Is Prostitution and Solicitation for Prostitution?

Most states outlaw the act of willfully engaging in sexual conduct in exchange for money or other goods like drugs. Likewise, most states prohibit the selling of another person’s sexual services for money or other goods, but these prohibitions may be included in a separate state statute.

Prostitution and solicitation for prostitution are often explained in the same state statute. Prostitution is typically a state offense, so the state statute that addresses the crime includes the specific language that criminalizes prostitution and solicitation of prostitution. Additionally, the state statute contains the legal elements that the prosecutor must prove by proof beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict the individual being tried.


The state statute may specifically define key terms to assist the prosecutor and the public in recognizing when a sexual act is considered illegal. If a statute refers to a “sexual act,” it is often referring to sexual intercourse or a lewd act. It may go into more graphic detail and describe the locations on the body where such lewd acts can occur. Additionally, state statutes may include language that states that the offender performs the act with the intent to arouse or sexually gratify the individual.

An important definition in criminal statutes is the term related to the mens rea. The mens rea is the mental state that the defendant possessed at the time of committing a crime. This may be “intentionally,” “willfully,” “knowingly” or “recklessly,” for example. Many states use the term “willfully” to mean that a person deliberately did something. His or her knowledge of whether the conduct was illegal does not usually prevent successful prosecution.


It is often more difficult for a prosecutor to prove solicitation than prostitution. This is because the prosecutor is usually tasked with proving whether an invitation, advertisement or offer meets the definition of solicitation. For example, a company may claim that it offers companionship services and does not imply that there will be any sexual conduct.

To prove its case, the prosecution must usually show that there is some overt act in which the “john” willfully agrees to using the services of the prostitute. This may be handing over money, discussing the particular arrangement or meeting at a certain location after discussing the expectation of sex in exchange for money, goods or other services.

Attempted Solicitation

When solicitation is difficult to prove, the prosecutor may charge the john with attempted solicitation. Circumstantial evidence such as the john carrying a large quantity of money, purchasing condoms and visiting a nefarious location known for prostitution may be introduced. However, attempted solicitation may carry a much lighter sentence than the original charge.

Penalties for Prostitution and Solicitation

Many jurisdictions charge prostitution and solicitation of prostitution as a misdemeanor offense, which usually includes a maximum possible sentence of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Some states also suspend a driver’s license if the offense occurred in a vehicle. Some jurisdictions may require a convicted offender to attend sex addiction treatment or complete individual or group counseling. For individuals who are repeat offenders, penalties are often much more severe, potentially resulting in increased jail time and higher fines. Some jurisdictions require individuals charged with prostitution or solicitation of prostitution to register as sex offenders. Other jurisdictions do not impose this type of penalty.

In some instances, a criminal defense lawyer may be able to help reduce the penalty. He or she may be able to get a first-time offender into a diversion program which allows the defendant to attend an educational course, pay a smaller fine to the court and complete other conditions as required by the court. After successfully completing these obligations, the case is usually dismissed against the defendant.

In other cases, a criminal defense lawyer may be able to get the charges reduced to a crime that does not involve a sexual component, such as disturbing the peace or trespassing. If this type of plea agreement is reached, the defendant can usually avoid having to register as a sex offender.

Provided by HG.org

Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication at the time it was written. It is not intended to provide legal advice or suggest a guaranteed outcome as individual situations will differ and the law may have changed since publication. Readers considering legal action should consult with an experienced lawyer to understand current laws and.how they may affect a case.

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