Everybody should have a right to make a living, but some ways of earning money are illegal, including the “oldest profession” of prostitution. Prostitution also often raises suspicion of sex trafficking , which is an extremely serious crime punishable by lengthy terms of imprisonment. If you’ve been accused of a crime involving prostitution or sex trafficking, it is important that you have an attorney who respects you and who fights for your rights in court. At Robinson Law, PLLC, our aggressive Fairfax criminal defense lawyers have extensive experience defending sex workers as well as those who face sex trafficking crimes.
Yes, under Va. Code Section 18.2-346, a person who has any type of sexual intercourse in exchange for money or other valuable things is guilty of prostitution. A person who offers money or valuable things in exchange for receiving sex is guilty of soliciting prostitution. Both of these are Class 1 misdemeanors and can be punished by up to 12 months in jail, a $2500 fine, or both. In either case, it is important to have an experienced criminal defense attorney representing your interests.
Prostitution cases are often proven through undercover sting operations, where a police officer poses as a prostitute or a client and chats with an unsuspecting person to set up a prostitution date. Those electronic messages and phone calls are later used to show that the person was trying to set up a prostitution date. These cases can also be proved if the person is arrested after the prostitution date and makes statements about having sex for money or paying for sex.
Under Va. Code Section 18.2-347, it is also illegal to keep or maintain a place that’s used for prostitution; that is called “keeping a bawdy place.” It is rare to have a place dedicated to prostitution in Virginia, unlike in some states where a person might visit a specific place to pay for sex. In modern times, people are often accused of “keeping a bawdy place” when they are renting a hotel room for the purpose of hosting prostitution clients. If the police can’t prove that a person had any particular prostitution dates, then they may try to prove that a person had “set up shop” in a hotel and had invited clients or dates over. It might even be enough to find somebody guilty if a particular place had a reputation in the community for being a place of prostitution!
If you’re charged with prostitution, solicitation, or keeping a bawdy place, it is important that you hire an attorney who is familiar with the laws and what the prosecutor must prove to show that you broke those laws.Is It Illegal to Set Up Prostitution Dates for Somebody Else, Even If I Don’t Do Anything Else?
Helping somebody engage in prostitution is also a Class 1 misdemeanor. However, if the person who was supposed to engage in a sex act was a minor, the offense becomes a felony. You don’t even have to receive anything in return for it to be a crime, as long as you know that you’re helping the person have sex for money. Even travel agents are not allowed to advertise “sex tourism.” Under Va. Code Section 18.2-348.1, it is a crime for travel agents to advertise travel and vacations for people who want to engage in prostitution on their trips!
For pimping, or receiving money from a prostitute’s earnings, the punishments are more severe. Virginia law uses the word “pandering” for pimping and makes it a Class 4 felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison under Va. Code Section 18.2-357. If you’re recruiting or encouraging somebody to engage in prostitution, it’s also punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
In these types of cases, it might be difficult for the prosecutor to show that you knew about the person you were helping or the person you were receiving money from. If the police don’t have statements from you about what you knew or statements from witnesses about what they told you, then the prosecutor will have to rely on circumstantial evidence and prove that the evidence shows that you could have only been doing something illegal, and prove that it couldn’t have been for something legal and innocent. In these situations, you need an attorney who will work hard to discredit the witnesses against you and who will use her skill and persuasiveness to show that the prosecutor’s evidence has an innocent explanation.
Under Va. Code Section 18.2-355, sex trafficking defined as forcing a person to engage in prostitution, either because it was against the person’s will or because the person is underage. Regular prostitution isn’t sex trafficking if the person receiving money for sex is an adult and isn’t being forced to do it. In Virginia state courts, each instance of sex trafficking is punished by a maximum of 10 years in prison. But in federal court, the punishment for sex trafficking is a minimum of 10 years in prison and up to life in prison!
Just like regular prostitution, intent is often a big issue that can be difficult for the prosecutor to prove. However, the law is in favor of the prosecutor on this issue, because they have a number of “shortcuts” they can use to prove that a person knew somebody was engaging in sex for money, or that somebody was underage. If you’re accused of sex trafficking, it’s very important that you have a zealous defense attorney who will fight for you.
Are You Facing Prostitution Charges?
If you are charged with any prostitution offense, a conviction can dramatically change your life. Thus, it is important to enlist the assistance of an experienced Fairfax criminal defense attorney to ensure your arrest has as little impact on your future as possible. At Robinson Law, PLLC, our experienced attorneys regularly defend sex workers and patrons, helping them develop strong defenses to the charges they face. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation, call (703) 844-3746. You can also connect with us through our online form.