In Virginia, any compensation deemed for the participation, agreements, and proposals to any sexual act is criminalized and punishable under the prostitution and solicitation laws. A prostitution conviction carries hefty penalties alongside undesirable jail terms – prostitution is categorized as class 1 misdemeanor, which usually carries a fine of up to $2500 and a punitive 12 months of jail. Virginia Criminal Attorney has experienced criminal defense lawyers to help you if you are charged with prostitution or solicitation in Fairfax and Northern Virginia.

The Legal Definition of Prostitution

The prostitution offense is codified under Virginia Code, Sections 18.2-346 to 18.2-359. The act of prostitution occurs when any individual knowingly traffics sexual favors for compensation whether in cash or kind. Under crimes involving morals and decency, the most prominent offense is prostitution. According to the statutes, both the solicitor and the prostitute are liable for criminal charges in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The prostitute would face prostitution charges, while the solicitor (or the prostitute’s customer) may face charges for aiding prostitution. The punishments do not only involve fines and jail term but also consequences that affect an individual's social life since society generally regards prostitutes as people who lack moral decency.

Other than aiding prostitution, any person who solicits prostitution would be violating the solicitation laws. Solicitation is the attempt to petition for favors of a sexual nature or the acquisition of sexual contact and/or acts that pertain to payment of sexual actions from another entity. Solicitation is a crime that carries penalties whether you are found to be requesting for sexual services for compensation or requesting for such favors for another individual’s sexual activities.

If you are charged with prostitution or soliciting prostitution, then you need legal representation from an attorney who is well-versed in defending both crimes.

What Is Prohibited under Prostitution and Solicitation Laws?

Despite being common words, most people find it challenging to understand the kind of acts that can amount to prostitution or solicitation charges in Virginia. Below are some of these acts:

  • Submission to or accepting to perform fellatio, cunnilingus, anilingus, or any other sexual act while expecting any form of payment – this is punished as a class 1 misdemeanor;
  • Merely offering money or any valuable item in exchange for sexual favors – this is punished as a class 1 misdemeanor;
  • Commercial exploitation of a minor who is below 16 years old for sexual acts, which is a class 5 felony. If the minor is 16 years and above, the offense would be a class 6 felony;
  • Both parties with the intention of prostituting or soliciting prostitution are liable to charges under the prostitution laws.

Keeping in mind the above scenarios, a person would be guilty if he/she (a) benefitted from any transaction of prostitution such as the pimps and madams (male and female procurers of prostitution respectively), (b) is involved in human trafficking for sexual exploitation, (c) provided sexual services, or (d) was the prostitute’s customer (commonly known as a “John”).

Crimes Associated to Prostitution in Virginia

The most common crimes that are related to prostitution are human trafficking and pimping. Human trafficking is detaining another human being to get payment for unlawful sexual activities.

On the other hand, pimping is the sponsoring and/or promotion of prostitution to acquire payment as money, property, dressing, and jewelry. It captures all acts on promoting prostitution in the sense of supervising, scheming for prostitutes, managing a prostitute, separating prostitutes, or running a prostitution business.

Misdemeanor Prostitution and Related Charges in Virginia

Misdemeanor prostitution charges cover any acts that involve offering sexual favors, soliciting or seeking sexual favors, visiting or living in bawdy places (a place that is regularly used for prostitution), and aiding in the crime of prostitution. In these cases, there must be evidence that the purpose is deemed to be immoral whether by a person, an agent, employee, or any firm that visits a place (within a structure or without) for illicit sex.

Engaging in sex for money

Willfully engaging in sex acts in exchange for money or other possessions of value is classically considered a class 1 misdemeanor under Section 18.2-346. The offense carries up to a $2,500 fine as well as up to a year in jail. Section 18.2-346.1 states that prostitutes must also be tested for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis C. Additionally they must be counseled in the health department by health personnel. During these counseling sessions, the following issues must be addressed: the meaning of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and hepatitis C and the consequence of the transmission and prevention of infection with hepatitis C and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Soliciting prostitution

If you are guilty of offering someone money in exchange for sexual services (soliciting prostitution), you face a maximum of one year in jail. You may also incur a maximum of 2,500 dollars as a fine. 

Bawdy places

Under Section 18.2-347, it is unlawful for any person to keep going to any bawdy place, reside in, or frequent bawdy places for immoral purposes. As used in this Code, "bawdy place" shall indicate any point within any structure that is associated with prostitution. This is a separate offense whose prosecution does not necessarily mean that you engaged in the act of prostitution. In a trial under this section, the general reputation of the place is considered. Additionally, every day of your living in such an area would result in a separate count of the crime. This offense is a class 1 misdemeanor with up to a year in confinement and/or a $2,500 fine.

Aiding prostitution

Section 18.2-348 affirms that aiding prostitution by giving personal information about the location of a prospective prostitute, thereby leading to the actual actions of prostitution, is a crime. You may also commit this crime by transporting a person to a location to engage in prostitution either with their ignorance or knowledge. This is a crime charged as a misdemeanor with up to a one-year jail term and/or a $2,500 fine.

Promoting prostitution using vehicles

Using a vehicle or giving it out intentionally to promote prostitution is a separate misdemeanor offense that carries the same class 1 misdemeanor penalties for prostitution-related charges.

Felony Prostitution and Related Charges in Virginia

Felony-related charges for prostitution are severe and as such, attract higher fines and longer jail terms. These felony charges include:

Confining, holding, and detaining another person for the sole purpose of prostitution

Section 18.2-355 of Virginia Code defines the confinement and holding a person in a bawdy place, against that person’s will, to coerce them or willfully force them into unwarranted sexual acts as a crime. Whenever you give consent as a guardian or parent to such confinement to a person in your custody or purpose (with bad intentions) to make them have sexual contacts against their will, you are also committing this crime. This offense is a class 4 felony with up to ten years confinement and $100,000 in fines.

Pimping, which is getting paid in cash or kind to procure a prostitute(s)

Section 18.2-356 of Virginia Code implies that receiving money or any valuable item in exchange of fronting a person for prostitution – intentionally and with disregard to that person – is a crime. Pimping is common among family members, friends, or people with close relationships. For instance, you can face pimping punishments if you take payments from your friend to make them engage in sex with your sibling. If you are found guilty of pimping, you will face class 4 felony punishments, with a maximum of ten years confinement and/or $100,000 in fines.

  1. Pandering, which is getting payments from the income of a prostitute(s)

Lastly, pandering under Section 18.2-357 is a felony. The crime not only entails receiving money or any item of value from the prostitute’s earnings but also knowing the source of the collected money. Similar to the above felony punishments, the sentence for pandering ranges from two to ten years and maximum fines of $100,000.

Other Implications of Prostitution Charges

Since prostitution or any related charges are crimes of moral decency, the state’s health department requires you to undergo tests that would limit any danger to public health. Additional orders or restrictions are given if the tests give positive results and you may face further charges for violating such orders. 

When charged as a prostitute, you are required to undergo medical tests and examination for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) to confirm positive results. The results are treated as confidential and only given to persons undergoing the tests by the health department. The person charged with prostitution is mandated to cover the costs associated with these tests. However, the regional jail, a correctional facility, juvenile facility, or the local health department bureau can settle the costs of HIV tests if the accused is found unable to meet the expenses.

If the accused has HIV as per the tests, the bureau of public health issues an order requiring him/her to desist from conduct that would endanger other people’s health. If the accused violates such orders, the public health commissioner may apply for a restriction order against the accused.

Apart from the HIV test, you are required to undergo a Hepatitis C test. If the test confirms that you have Hepatitis C, a commissioner for state health may distribute the report to the local police departments, state police, emergency medical technicians or paramedics, adult or youth correctional facilities, and the court’s officers. This report is meant to make the exposed individuals seek proper treatment and also prevent threats to the health of the public and persons affected. The test results will not be redistributed without authority as defined by the federal health department nor will they be admissible in any criminal proceeding.

Legal Defenses for Prostitution

You don’t have to feel guilty if you are prosecuted with prostitution. Your prostitution attorney can help you raise the following defenses:

  • Lack of intent: Any prostitution charge requires proof that you intended to ‘sell or buy sex’. If you had no intention of engaging in sex to gain something of value, you should not be charged with prostitution. An example of a situation where you had no criminal intent is hiring an escort service with no primary intention of engaging in sex.

  • Coercion: A person can force you into having sex with them so that they can get some monetary benefits from you. They can use tricks and lies to achieve their mission. In such scenarios, it is reasonable to claim that you committed the offense out of coercion and you are not liable to prostitution charges.

  • Entrapment happens when a law enforcement office forces you to commit an offense through threats, force, or even a promise that you won’t be prosecuted. The judge should not convict you if an officer entrapped you into committing the offense.

The Statute of Limitations on Prostitution

Virginia law launches maximum time within which legal proceedings have to be initiated from the time of the crime to authenticate the evidence and produce a justified trial. Most sexual offenses and less severe crimes have limitations for the commencement of legal proceedings (unlike serious crimes such as murder that don't have such time limits).

The law sets a one-year time limit for prostitution misdemeanors and solicitation misdemeanors. On the other hand, there is no time limit for kidnapping and human trafficking (which are offenses that can be committed for prostitution purposes). Even though it is rare, a person may flee the state in a bid to avoid justice; in this case, the time limit does not run until you get back to the jurisdiction.

The statute of limitations laws in Virginia can be confusing, but they are meant to protect the rights of the accused and the victims. The statute gives ample time to prosecutors to gather enough evidence before pressing any criminal charges. It also ensures that violent crimes and felonies are not bypassed because the charges can be filed at any time. On the defendant’s side, this statute ensures that you have enough time to build a proper defense strategy for the accusations, including looking for witnesses or interviewing the victim (if possible) by your attorney. During this time, before the prosecutor presses charges against you, you may reach an out-of-court agreement with the victim to avoid a possible conviction.

Frequently Asked Questions on Prostitution

  • What is sex trafficking?

The state of Virginia defines sex trafficking as the act of holding, harboring, coercing, and forcefully obtaining an underage person with the intention of exploiting them to get paid for illicit sex. Whether the victim is willing or unwilling, the act is considered sex trafficking as long as they are minors. Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children are potential charges for this crime.

  • Is sex trafficking considered prostitution?

Both sex trafficking and prostitution are sexual activities, but the purpose and means differ. A prostitute performs the act with the aim of benefiting in cash or kind. In sex trafficking, however, the pimp takes the benefit as the trafficker. Consequently, sex trafficking victims are abused and they are usually vulnerable persons like immigrants or children under legal age. Sex trafficking of minors is a serious crime and it consists of prostitution acts on minors because the law does not recognize child prostitution.

  • What is sexual activity?

Any sexual co-relation like intercourse, masturbation, touching suggestively, and oral sex are examples of sexual activities.

  • What is payment within the charge of prostitution?

Payment is money or any valuable item used in exchange for sexual activities. For instance, your rental property is sufficiently considered payment as long as you exchanged it for sexual favors.

  • When was prostitution outlawed in the US?

The FBI was developed from the Bureau of Investigation (BOI) in 1935 to investigate white slavery. As it was implementing the White Slave Traffic Act of 1910 that prohibited the moving of females for immoral purposes, it addressed prostitution and immorality as well. There were few laws criminalizing prostitution prior to World War I. For instance, during the war the US government authorized the arrest of any woman found within five miles of a military base. By the close of the war, a multitude of women had been arrested and quarantined to avoid the spread of venerable diseases. Fast forward to 2018, Congress imposed harsh penalties on illicit sex workers’ platforms even though the act has been accused of endangering sex workers’ lives as well as being ineffective in stopping prostitution. Virginia state laws are enacted from US Congress laws.

Get Legal Representation Near Me

Any forms of prostitution and related charges, either as misdemeanors or felonies, are considered crimes of moral decency. Thus, our society generally looks down on people who are convicted of these charges. But you don't have to be guilty merely because you are charged with prostitution. Virginia Criminal Attorney can help you in raising effective defense strategies based on the charges filed against you. Reach our Fairfax Criminal Lawyer by calling 703-718-5533 if you are facing these charges in Fairfax or any area of Northern Virginia.