Generally, prostitution is the act of engaging in sexual activity by a person for a fee or a thing of economic value. But the scope of the crime of prostitution has been widened to include all prostitution related offenses. Thus a person is considered to commit an offense of prostitution if s/he engages in an act of prostitution willfully, solicits prostitution, or agrees to engage in an act of prostitution.
The parties to the crime usually include: a prostitute and a customer or a third person/pimp. In addition to engaging in prostitution, soliciting prostitution, agreeing to engage in an act of prostitution, child prostitution, attempted prostitution are other prostitution related offenses. A person may be guilty of an attempt to commit prostitution when s/he engages in conduct which tends to effect the commission of such crime. In order to prove attempt, it is necessary to establish that a defendant had the intent to commit a specific offense and that a defendant engaged in some affirmative act to carry out that crime.
The elements constituting an offense of prostitution are that a person has engaged in a sexual activity and has done it willfully. Sexual activity may be sexual intercourse or any lewd acts that may arouse sexual feelings. Most jurisdictions make monetary consideration a requisite to constitute prostitution but some jurisdictions do not require it to be an element of the offense[i]. Consideration need not be in the form of money.
In order to constitute an offense of soliciting prostitution, a person has to solicit another person to engage in an act of prostitution and the act must have been done with specific intent to engage in an act of prostitution[ii]. A prostitute or a customer may be charged for the offense of solicitation of prostitution depending on the circumstances or who began the interaction. Specific intent of engaging in an act of prostitution is an essential element to constitute an offense. An offer to pay money or other compensation like drugs in exchange for sexual acts may be considered evidence as to the intent of the parties. Some courts have held that the individual being solicited must actually receive the solicitation in order to convict an accused for soliciting prostitution.
Agreeing to engage in an act of prostitution is another prostitution offense. The elements of the offense are that, a person must have agreed to engage in an act of prostitution with another person. It should have been with a specific intent to engage in an act of prostitution and any act in furtherance of prostitution must have had to be performed. This offense is a continuation of solicitation of prostitution because the person who accepts solicitation will be agreeing to engage in prostitution.
A charge under the offense of agreeing to engage in an act of prostitution may be made even if the person who solicited did not have the same intent. This situation may arise when a person who pretended to be a prostitute was an under cover agent. In addition to the intent, an act in furtherance of prostitution must have been performed to constitute the offense of agreeing to engage in prostitution.
An act in furtherance of prostitution can be, driving to an agreed upon location where the sexual activity will take place, mere verbal command to undress, giving the payment agreed upon and the like. The nature of the act is not important as long as it indicates existence of an agreement to engage in prostitution.
[i] State v. Willis, 218 N.W.2d 921 (Iowa 1974).
[ii] State v. Render, 203 Iowa 329 (Iowa 1926).