From Escort Services to Elliot Spitzer: New York Criminal Statutes Relating to Prositution Part I

Elliot Spitzer, The Emperor’s Club VIP, Ashley Dupre, Kristin Davis, Wicked Models…Clearly, those working in the oldest profession right here in Manhattan, and the men who seek their services, are still pushing the limits of the law. As a former prosecutor who served for seven years under Robert Morgenthau in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and as a NY criminal defense attorney, there is little doubt in my mind that law enforcement will continue to aggressively investigate, arrest and prosecute people involved in prostitution related crimes.

Unfortunately for those charged with crimes relating to prosecution, the District Attorney can charge you with a gamut of offenses depending on your involvement and activities. Some of these crimes include Prostitution, Patronizing a Prostitute, Promoting Prostitution and Permitting Prostitution. Believe it or not, you may even be charged under Education Law Sections 6512(1) and (2) for engaging in an unlicensed massage. However, the more large scale the operation or “high end” the organization, additional charges may come into play such as Money Laundering in association with the illegally obtained funds. For the purpose of the entry, however, we will direct our attention to Prostitution. Future entries will address Patronizing a Prostitute, Promoting Prostitution and Permitting Prostitution.

New York Penal Law does not differentiate between the high end call girl, woman from an escort service or the street level “hooker.” Regardless of how much one charges, a person is guilty of Prostitution when “such person engages or agrees or offers to engage in sexual conduct with another person in return for a fee.” See Penal Law 230.00. This offense is a class “B” misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail.

Although “sexual conduct” is not defined in this particular statute, other sections of the New York Penal Law and cases addressing this issue define “sexual conduct” as sexual intercourse, oral sexual conduct, anal sexual conduct and masturbation.

It is not always clear whether or not a person’s actions rise to the level of prostitution. For example, if you give a lap dance where there is “grinding” or an erotic massage are you guilty of Prostitution? What is the definition of “agrees?” What if you are paid a fee so someone can merely touch a part of your body? Each set of facts requires an experienced criminal defense attorney to challenge the accusations to make sure each element of the crime is met. If you find yourself in this position you owe it to yourself to retain a NY criminal defense lawyer with real experience in these crimes.

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