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5 Legal Strategies to Defend Against Prostitution

5 Legal Strategies to Defend Against Prostitution

How to Defend Against Prostitution Charges

Prostitution is illegal in almost every U.S. state. While each state has its own set of laws and regulations regarding prostitution, it’s critical to understand that South Carolina considers it a serious crime punishable by fines and jail time—or both. This is why it’s imperative to seek support from an experienced criminal defense attorney if you’re facing prostitution or solicitation charges.

How Does South Carolina Define Prostitution?

Many people mistakenly believe that prostitution is limited to the act of exchanging sex for money, but state law in South Carolina makes it clear that various behaviors warrant prostitution charges.

Under South Carolina Code of Laws §16-15-90, it’s illegal to:

  • Engage in prostitution
  • Procure or solicit prostitution
  • Indecent exposure for the purpose of prostitution
  • Reside in or enter any place for the purpose of prostitution
  • Keep a brothel or house for lewd purposes
  • Permit a person to remain in a vehicle or place for the purpose of prostitution
  • Direct, take, or transport a person to another person or place for the purpose of prostitution (or offering/agreeing to do so)
  • Lease or rent a vehicle or place to someone when there is reasonable cause to believe that it will be used for prostitution
  • Aid, abet, or participate knowingly in any of the acts above

However, this is not a comprehensive list of behaviors that may warrant a prostitution offense. Keep in mind that any person can be charged with prostitution regardless of whether the act was completed, a meeting occurred, or money was exchanged.

A person may be charged with this crime even if they merely proposed or discussed a potential arrangement. In many cases, evidence that an agreement or transaction occurred is grounds for the police to arrest you.

Penalties for a Prostitution Conviction

As is the case with other areas of criminal law, the penalties for a prostitution conviction worsen in accordance with the total offenses accrued. This means that you can face significantly higher stakes if you have a record of prior offenses.

First Offense

Penalties for an initial prostitution offense include:

  • Up to 30 days in jail
  • Up to a $200 fine

Second Offense

Penalties for a second prostitution offense include:

  • Up to 6 months in prison
  • Up to a $1,000 fine

Third & Subsequent Offenses

Penalties for a third or subsequent prostitution offense include:

  • Up to 1 year in prison
  • Up to a $3,000 fine

Encouraging or Soliciting Minors

If the prostitution offense involved encouraging or soliciting a minor (a person under the age of 18) for sex, the defendant is now facing a felony conviction punishable by:

  • Up to 10 years in prison
  • Up to a $5,000 fine

It’s also worth noting that under South Carolina Code of Laws §17-25-135, anyone convicted of promoting the prostitution of a minor is required to register as a sex offender.

5 Legal Strategies to Defend Against Prostitution

If you find yourself facing prostitution charges, it’s imperative to seek legal counsel from a trusted legal advisor.

While it can be tempting to bypass legal representation for financial purposes, rest assured that doing so can cost you far more in the long run, as a criminal conviction can result in more than jail time and hefty fines. It can also inflict permanent damage on your reputation, employability, and overall image.

A qualified prostitution defense lawyer can help determine the most effective legal strategy to employ in your defense. Having reliable legal expertise in your corner can give you the fighting chance you need in court to obtain a favorable outcome.

Keep reading to learn 5 ways to defend against prostitution charges in court.

#1. Entrapment

While entrapment is a commonly known strategy, it can be a tricky defense to employ successfully. It’s most often used in the event of a sting operation, or a deceptive operation where undercover law enforcement officials create an opportunity for a crime to be committed.

For example, a police offer may pose as someone involved in prostitution in the hope of enticing someone to engage in illicit activity. In essence, this defense argues that had you not been coerced or persuaded by undercover law enforcement, you wouldn’t have committed an illicit act.

However, entrapment requires you (the defendant) to prove that:

  1. You are a normally law-abiding citizen; and
  2. You wouldn’t have committed the crime under ordinary circumstances.

Consequently, entrapment is a poor strategy to use in defense of someone who regularly engages in prostitution, solicits others for sexual favors, or participates in other forms of illicit activity.

#2. False Accusations

You’ve likely heard the common phrase, “If you do the crime, you have to do the time.” This defense is as simple as it sounds: it argues that you didn’t commit a crime.

There are various scenarios in which this defense can be an effective strategy. For example, maybe you recently divorced a spiteful ex who falsely accused you, or you just broke up with a vengeful partner with ulterior motives.

Whatever the case, your lawyer can help you collect, organize, and present sufficient evidence that can prove your innocence to the court.

#3. Lack of Intent

A lack of intent defense argues that you never planned to engage in illicit activity in the first place. While this is an easy claim to make, keep in mind that you can be charged with prostitution for merely discussing it. Even if no money exchanged hands, arguing lack of intent can be pointless if you knowingly conversed with a sex worker about any prostitution-related topic, from current rates to scheduling to location.

However, this can be an effective defense for someone who found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.

For example, maybe you were lost in a new city, pulled over to ask for directions, and did not know that the person you approached was a sex worker. Maybe you were waiting on a street corner to meet a friend for dinner. Whatever the reason, being in proximity of a sex worker without intent to break the law isn’t grounds for a prostitution conviction.

#4. Lack of Probable Cause

A lack of probable cause argues that an error was made by law enforcement when an arrest was made. To charge someone with a crime, it’s the officer’s responsibility to prove that they planned to solicit prostitution before an arrest was made. However, an officer in an unmarked car cannot arrest a person who simply approaches a car and has a conversation with the person inside.

Evidence or a form of probable cause must exist to justify the officer’s decision to arrest a suspect for a crime. If a police officer lacked probable cause to arrest you, this is likely an effective legal strategy to employ in your defense.

#5. Violation of Constitutional Rights

In some cases, a police officer may have violated the defendant’s constitutional rights. This can occur when law enforcement fails to read a suspect’s Miranda rights when arresting or detaining them.

Keep in mind that an officer is not required to read your Miranda rights if you are not being detained or arrested. While it can feel as though you’re in police custody while being questioned or even interrogated, it’s unlawful for a police officer to formally detain or arrest someone without Mirandizing them.

If you’re uncertain whether or not you’re being detained or arrested, ask. This can give you more insight regarding whether your constitutional rights were violated and/or if you have the right to leave the premises.

Our Firm Is Here to Defend Your Rights

Our firm is devoted to protecting the rights of the accused in South Carolina. Whether you were falsely accused, unaware that your actions were illegal, or simply made an honest mistake, rest assured that our passionate criminal defense attorneys are here to protect your good name while keeping your best interests top of mind.

Since 2004, our experienced team at the Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC has served deserving clients in Lexington and the surrounding areas. From DUIs to traffic offenses to internet crimes, we’re here to be your legal resource and aggressive advocate. If you’re facing criminal charges, you can trust us to guide your steps from start to finish.

Charged with a crime in South Carolina? It’s imperative to have the right legal team in your corner to build the strongest defense possible. Call (803) 359-3301 or contact us online to request a free consultation. 


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