Per DC Code §22–2701.01(3), prostitution in DC is defined as a sexual act or sexual contact with another person in return for giving or receiving anything of value. The act of prostitution is illegal in the District of Columbia.
Under the above definition of prostitution, both the person performing the sexual services—the “prostitute”—and the person receiving the sexual services—the “john”—could be charged with the crime of prostitution. Most people think only the person offering the sexual services can be charged with prostitution, while the person receiving the services would be charged with solicitation (of prostitution). This is not true.
What is “solicitation,” then? Why is a separate charge needed when the offense of prostitution apparently covers all sides involved in the act?
Under DC Code §22–2701.01(7), soliciting prostitution is defined as inviting, enticing, offering, persuading, or agreeing to engage in prostitution, or addressing someone with the intent to do so. Whether the actual sexual act happened is irrelevant.
In essence, prostitution is the illegal act, while solicitation is an attempt to commit that illegal act. Both are generally treated as misdemeanor offenses in DC unless you are a multi-repeat offender.
The penalties for prostitution and solicitation of prostitution in DC are as follows:
- First-time offense: Up to 90 days in jail and/or up to $500 in fines.
- Second-time offense: Up to 180 days in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines.
- Third or subsequent offense: Up to 2 years in prison and/or up to $12,500 in fines. This makes it a felony-level crime.
Note that convictions for prostitution or solicitation in other jurisdictions count toward the number of offenses when it comes to deciding the level of punishment in DC. DC also counts conduct that would be considered prostitution or solicitation if they were committed in DC.
Safe Harbors: Exemption of Minors from Prostitution Charges
Washington, DC has a safe harbor statute that protects minors—those under the age of 18—from being charged with prostitution. This is to protect sexually exploited minors from being criminally penalized for situations over which they had little to no control.
“Pandering” is the legal term for what is colloquially known as “pimping”—in other words, inducing or compelling another person to engage in prostitution. As pandering can involve a wide-spread organization of people, both enforcers, and victims, and exploits persons in vulnerable positions that may include minors, it is considered a felony offense in the District of Columbia. Harsh penalties are applied to anyone convicted of the offense.
The penalty for a conviction for pandering is up to 5 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $12,500. The same punishment applies to those who procure items, handle money, or collect debts for the pandering operation—in essence, anyone involved in such an operation will face similar punishment.
The penalty is upgraded to up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $50,000 if the pandering involved a minor.
Compelling an individual to live a life of prostitution against his or her will, meaning forcing a person to reside with another for the purpose of prostitution, carries penalties of up to 15 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $37,500. Similar to the above, if the offense involved a minor, the penalty is upgraded to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $50,000.
The related offense of forcing a spouse or domestic partner to live a life of prostitution carries a minimum penalty of 1 year in prison and a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. You may also have to pay a fine of up to $25,000.
Getting a DC Prostitution and Solicitation Lawyer
The offenses of prostitution and solicitation are relatively minor, especially if you are a first-time offender. DC does offer diversion programs which allow the courts to substitute an alternative punishment instead of jail time, such as community service. It is important to contact a lawyer right away if you are facing such charges. An attorney familiar with the area can help you negotiate for diversion programs, reduce your sentence, or even help get the charges dismissed.
If your charges involve the more serious crime of pandering, that only makes the assistance of a professional defense attorney more valuable. An attorney can help you sort out your options, raise proper defenses, and work toward the best outcome possible for your situation.
Do not hesitate to contact the experienced, expert DC prostitution and solicitation of prostitution lawyers at Ervin Kibria Law today for a free consultation.