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Prostitution and Solicitation Defense in Oklahoma

Some call it “the oldest profession,” but Oklahoma, like most of the rest of the nation, does not allow prostitution as a legal career path. The state does not consider the exchange of sex for money a legitimate exchange of goods and services in a free economy; rather, prostitution is considered a crime against public decency.

There are a number of crimes related to prostitution, and a number of people who can be criminally charged for involvement in some aspect of prostitution. At its most basic level, though, prostitution involves two people: the prostitute who offers to sell sex and the “john” or person who offers money or other thing of value in exchange for sexual favors.

Prostitution, or offering sex in exchange for money, and solicitation of prostitution, or offering money in exchange for sex, are charged as misdemeanors. Although these acts are relatively mild in terms of criminal penalties, a conviction can leave years of heartache and difficulty lingering in its wake.

A solicitation arrest can bring personal and professional embarrassment. It can destroy marriages, strain friendships, and cause difficulties with one’s children. For many people arrested for solicitation of prostitution, these personal consequences seem more difficult than the idea of spending time in jail.

If you have been arrested for prostitution or soliciting prostitution, you have a number of options for your defense.  If you are a victim of human trafficking, your prostitution is not considered a crime, but rather forced sexual exploitation for which you are not accountable. If you are arrested for soliciting prostitution, your arrest may be the result of a misunderstanding, or you may be the victim of entrapment in an improperly conducted prostitution sting. Do not talk to police about the incident. Instead, insist upon your right to silence and call an experienced attorney at once.

Engaging in Prostitution

Oklahoma law prohibits people from engaging in prostitution under 21 O.S. 1029. Under this statute, it is a misdemeanor to:

  • Engage in prostitution or lewdness
  • Solicit another to engage in lewdness or prostitution with oneself
  • Enter or remain in any building, structure, vehicle, or trailer with the intent of engaging in prostitution or lewdness
  • Aid, abet, or participate in any of the above activities

Although prostitution and solicitation of prostitution are two separate and distinct activities, they are prosecuted in the same manner under the same statute. Both prostitution and solicitation are misdemeanors. The penalties for prostitution and solicitation include a jail term of 30 days to one year and a fine of up to $2,500 on the first offense. The fines increase with subsequent convictions, and the court may also mandate 40 to 80 hours of community service.

There are circumstances of a prostitution arrest which significantly enhance the penalties:

  • If the act of prostitution involves a minor under the age of 16, it is considered to be child prostitution, a felony punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison.
  • Any minor aged 16 or 17 engaging in prostitution is presumed to be a victim of human trafficking acting under force or duress. Trafficking in children under 18 carries a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000.
  • Engaging in prostitution while knowingly infected with HIV is a felony punishable by a maximum of 5 years in prison.
  • Engaging in or soliciting prostitution within 1,000 feet of a church or school is a felony that carries a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison.

For many of these acts of lewdness or prostitution, the associated fines increase with each subsequent conviction.

Online Prostitution

Prostitutes used to be called “streetwalkers” or “ladies of the night.” However, while there are certainly still prostitutes who stand on street corners looking to turn a trick, there are many, many more who offer their services through use of technology. Craiglist, Backpage, and other online classified sites and message boards offer “erotic massage,” “escort services,” and other services which are thinly veiled ads for prostitution.

Unfortunately for the men and women who turn to these sites to find customers or illegal companionship, the person placing or responding to the ad may actually be a law enforcement decoy. These online sting operations occur when a police officer posing as an escort or a john makes arrangements to meet with another person to engage in commercial sex. A great number of prostitution arrests in Oklahoma are made as a result of these online sting operations.

Prostitution and Solicitation of Prostitution

The commercial exchange of sex for money is prohibited under 21 O.S. § 1029. In general, both prostitution and solicitation of prostitution are prosecuted as misdemeanors; however, certain circumstances can elevate the offense to felony status.

Under Oklahoma law, it is forbidden to engage in prostitution; to solicit prostitution; to go anywhere or loiter anywhere with the intent of engaging in prostitution; or to aid, abet, or participate in any of the previously identified activities related to prostitution.

State law treats actively engaging in prostitution, soliciting prostitution, and attempting to engage in prostitution as equal offenses. Penalties increase with subsequent offenses:

  • First offense – 30 days to one year in jail; fine of up to $2,500
  • Second offense – maximum of one year in jail; fine of up to $5,000
  • Third or subsequent offense – maximum of one year in jail; fine of up to $7,500

While prostitution is generally a misdemeanor, it is a felony under the following circumstances:

  • Prostitution or solicitation of prostitution within 1,000 feet of a church or school is a felony punishable by a maximum of 5 years in prison.
  • Engaging in prostitution while knowingly infected with HIV is a felony punishable by a maximum of 5 years in prison.

Jail or prison, fines, and personal and professional embarrassment are all potential consequences of a prostitution arrest. The criminal record created by conviction of a misdemeanor or felony can create additional collateral consequences that have an impact on one’s life long after any sentence has been served.

Pandering

Although prostitution can occur with the involvement of only two people—the prostitute and his or her customer—it often takes place through the facilitation of a pimp. The legal term for pimping is “pandering,” and it refers to procuring a person for prostitution by means of “promise, threats, violence or by any device or scheme.” In general, such a person facilitates prostitution and takes all or part of the money the prostitute receives as payment for sexual favors.

While engaging in prostitution is a misdemeanor, pandering is a felony that carries a sentence of 2 to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $9,000.

Pandering is elevated to human trafficking when the pimp compels a person to engage in prostitution through force, duress, or violence, or if the prostitute is under the age of 18. Human trafficking carries a minimum sentence of 5 years in prison unless the victim of trafficking is a child under the age of 18. Trafficking in minors is punishable by a minimum of 10 years in prison.

Oklahoma Prostitution Lawyers

In addition to pimps, johns, and prostitutes, other people may be charged in connection with prostitution. These include others who facilitate, aid, or abet prostitution and those who own “bawdy houses” or businesses in which prostitution takes place.

A prostitution arrest can be embarrassing, regardless of the circumstances that led to your arrest. At Coventon Criminal Defense, we do not judge you or your situation. We work with you to find a successful defense strategy that allows you to put this incident behind you. Call (405) 417-3842 to schedule a free case review.

The National Trial Lawyers

  • Oklahoma Association for Justice
  • Oklahoma Bar Association
  • National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

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