Punishment for prostitution varies from state to state. Prostitution, solicitation, and agreeing to engage in an act of prostitution are considered as misdemeanor in some jurisdictions. But in some jurisdictions they are considered more serious offenses. One who pays and one who receives fee or pecuniary benefit as consideration for an act of prostitution will be punished for the offense.
Different punishments are laid out in the state and federal statutes for different types of prostitution offenses.
According to 18 U.S.C. § 2421, the punishment for knowingly transporting or attempting to transport any person in U.S. territory with intent to engage such person in prostitution is fine or imprisonment for not more than 10 years or both.
The punishment for knowingly persuading an individual to travel in any territory of the U.S. to engage in prostitution is fine or imprisonment for not more than 20 years or both[i]. The statute also provides that if an individual persuaded or attempted to be persuaded is a minor who has not attained the age of 18 years, the offender will be punished with fine and imprisonment for not less than 10 years or for life.
The punishment for knowingly transporting an individual who has not attained the age of 18 years with intent to engage that person in prostitution is fine and imprisonment for not less than 10 years or for life[ii]. A person who travels in or into the U.S., or a U.S. citizen or an alien admitted for permanent residence in the U.S. who travels for the purpose of engaging in any illicit sexual conduct with another person shall be fined or imprisoned for not more than 30 years, or both.
The aiding of travel of a person with the aim of personal gain, knowing that such a person is traveling in interstate commerce or foreign commerce for the purpose of prostitution will be punished with fine or imprisonment for not more than 30 years or both.
The punishment for importation of an alien for immoral purpose is 10 years imprisonment or fine or both[iii]. Prostitution near military and naval establishments is punishable with one year imprisonment or fine or both. Interstate and foreign travel or transportation in aid of racketeering enterprises with regard to prostitution will be punishable with 5 years’ imprisonment or fine or both.
State laws with regard to punishment for prostitution are different with regard to a prostitute, pimp, customer and brothel owner. Also, the degree of an offense of prostitution is different in different states. For example, in Alabama, a prostitute and customer will be punished for Class A misdemeanor and will be sentenced up to 1 yr or fined for $6,000 or both. However, a pimp and a brothel owner will be punished for Class C felony and sentenced to 1-10 years’ imprisonment and $15,000 fine. In California, a prostitute and a customer will be punished for misdemeanor with imprisonment up to 1 year and $1000 fine or both. But, a pimp and a brothel owner will be punished for felony and the punishment is 3-6 years in state prison. In Nevada, prostitution has been legalized in many counties.
Prostitution/solicitation is priorable offenses and this means that punishment necessarily increases with each subsequent offense. In certain jurisdictions, even though prostitution is treated as misdemeanor, punishment for felony of third degree would be given if convicted repeatedly during short periods for the same offense. Also, a person convicted of prostitution, who knew that s/he was infected with either HIV or AIDS at the time of the commission of the act shall be punished as having committed a felony of the first degree.
In some states, if a person commits an offense of prostitution while using a car, the court may suspend his/her license or issue a restricted license for a stipulated period. In some other states, the state may seize and forfeit the vehicle when an offense of prostitution is committed in it.
The punishment for abetting or assisting prostitution will be same as that of misdemeanor. But if a person repeatedly engages in the offense of abetting, s/he will be punished for felony of the third degree.
The punishment for compelling prostitution is more severe. A person convicted for compelling prostitution shall be punished for felony of the third degree the first time itself. Also, if s/he is convicted of a third time for compelling prostitution within three years, s/he will be punished for felony of the first degree.
In addition to the commission of offenses, punishment will be given for an attempt to commit prostitution offenses also. An attempt to commit these offenses will be punishable in the same manner as such offenses are committed by the guilty persons.
[i] 18 U.S.C. § 2422.
[ii] 18 U.S.C. § 2423.
[iii] 8 USCS § 1328.