In New Jersey, the crime of “prostitution” includes acting as a prostitute, hiring or soliciting a prostitute, and other crimes of promoting prostitution (i.e. “pimping”). While this statute could be used to target the prostitutes and sex workers, it is more frequently used to punish “johns” who hire prostitutes and pimps who manage prostitutes.
If you were arrested for soliciting a prostitute in Atlantic City or anywhere in South Jersey, talk to an attorney about your charges today. The Atlantic City solicitation defense attorneys at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych practice throughout Atlantic City and other areas in South Jersey and the Jersey Shore.
Solicitation Crime in New Jersey
If you were arrested for soliciting a prostitute, it is important to understand the charges against you. New Jersey’s “prostitution” statute is very broad, and applies to any actions surrounding prostitution. Specifically, N.J.S.A. § 2C:34-1, the prostitution statute, criminalizes the following actions:
- Soliciting or being a patron of prostitution;
- Promoting prostitution;
- Promoting prostitution of a child under 18;
- Promoting the prostitution of your child or another child you are responsible for;
- Forcing another into prostitution;
- Promoting prostitution of your spouse;
- Engaging in prostitution with someone under 18, remaining in a “house of prostitution” to have sex with someone under 18, or soliciting prostitution of someone under the age of 18; or
- Personally offering sex for something of value.
The statute references “prostitution” multiple times, and carries its own, broad definition of prostitution that covers many areas of conduct: “‘Prostitution’ is sexual activity with another person in exchange for something of economic value, or the offer or acceptance of an offer to engage in sexual activity in exchange for something of economic value.”
Similarly, “promoting prostitution” is also defined to include:
- Owning or running a brothel,
- Hiring prostitutes to a brothel,
- Soliciting someone to use prostitution services;
- Finding a prostitute for a patron;
- Bringing someone into New Jersey to be a prostitute;
- Knowingly leasing or renting a building to be used for prostitution.
Ultimately, most activities related to prostitution is covered under this statute.
NJ Penalties for Soliciting or Promoting Prostitution
Different versions of prostitution, solicitation, or promotion carry various penalties for different specific details of the offense. These crimes range from disorderly persons offenses at the lowest, to first degree crimes at the worst, covering every level of crime in between.
The most serious, first degree crimes of prostitution are those that involve promoting the prostitution of someone under the age of 18 or your own child. These are punished with 10-20 years in prison and fines up to $200,000. This is the highest level of crime in New Jersey. Additionally, since these crimes are sexual crimes against minors, they may have additional penalties, such as additional fines, sex offender registration, and removal of child victims from your custody.
While prostituting a child under 18 is a first degree crime, hiring, engaging in sexual activity with, or soliciting sex from someone under 18 is a second degree crime. This is punished with 5-10 years in prison and fines up to $150,000. Again, since this is a sex crime involving a minor, it may have additional punishments like sex offender registration.
Prostitution charges are a third degree crime for compelling another to engage in prostituting or for pimping your spouse. Promoting prostitution is also a third degree crime if it involves owning the establishment, hiring prostitutes, encouraging prostitution, transporting prostitutes into New Jersey, or leasing the establishment. A third degree crime is punished with three to five years in prison and fines up to $15,000.
Simple solicitation of prostitution is actually the lowest level of offense, and is considered a disorderly persons offense. Disorderly persons offenses are like misdemeanors in other states, and are punished with under a year in jail. In New Jersey, the maximum punishment for a disorderly persons offense is 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine. This penalty only applies for a first offense solicitation conviction.
Any other prostitution crime not specifically listed above is a fourth degree crime. Additionally, any repeat solicitation offenses are upgraded from a disorderly persons offense to a fourth degree crime. A fourth degree crime is punished with up to 18 months in prison and fines up to $10,000 in New Jersey.
Lastly, if you solicited a prostitute using a motor vehicle, you can lose your drivers’ license for 6 months.
Defenses to Solicitation Charges
One of the defenses that people commonly try to apply to solicitation charges is the defense of “entrapment.” Entrapment is a very specific legal defense that is used against “sting” operations, where undercover cops allegedly pushed the defendant into committing the crime. For an entrapment defense to work, you must prove that you did not have the criminal intent to commit the crime until the police got involved. If an undercover police officer offers prostitution services, and you accept, you may have already committed the crime of prostitution for agreeing to give money for sex. Legally, there is no defense because you did not actually have sex with the officer; the acceptance is sufficient.
The defense of entrapment does not apply simply because the undercover cop offered sexual activity. If you were already likely to accept an offer of prostitution services, then an entrapment defense will not apply. This predisposition to commit the crime can be proved by your actions prior to accepting the police officer’s offer, including driving in an area known for prostitution, stopping to talk to the undercover officer, or carrying large quantities of cash.
The prostitution statute itself includes a very specific defense that applies to alleged prostitutes. If you were forced to enter into prostitution because you were a victim of human trafficking or otherwise forced into sexual acts, you cannot be found guilty of prostitution. This defense only applies for the prostitutes themselves who are charged with crimes, and will not typically protect a patron or a pimp/madam.
South Jersey Prostitution, Solicitation, and Promotion Defense Attorney
The South Jersey criminal defense lawyers at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych may be able to help you if you were charged with a prostitution-related crime. For a free consultation on your charges, contact us today. Our attorneys may be able to help you understand the case against you, its potential penalties, and your potential defenses.