Prostitution: does it require an actual exchange of money?

Prostitution offenses – do they require an exchange of money?

Wisconsin lawmakers created many versions of prostitution laws.  Paying for prostitutes, selling services as a sex worker, and even hanging out in certain areas with the purpose of purchasing a prostitute are all crimes.  The many versions of prostitution laws breed confusion and one common question: can I be charged with a prostitution crime if I never gave money to a prostitute?  The answer, in short, is yes.

You don’t need to give money to a prostitute in order to face criminal charges.  “Prostitution” requires an exchange of money.  But similar charges (with similarly offensive names) don’t require you to give money to anyone.  But does it matter if your record says “prostitution,” “patronizing a prostitute,” or “soliciting a prostitute”?

The criminal defense lawyers at Van Severen Law Office, S.C. are consistently recognized as some of the best in Wisconsin.  We regularly defend individuals facing all sorts of sex crimes, including prostitution.  If you’re facing any kind of criminal investigation or charges, contact us immediately at (414) 270-0202.  We can help.

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So, what’s prostitution?

This charge requires you to exchange money (or something of value) for some kind of sex act.  Specifically, section 944.30 of the Wisconsin Statutes states:

(1m) Any person who intentionally does any of the following is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor:
(a) Has or offers to have or requests to have nonmarital sexual intercourse for anything of value.
(b) Commits or offers to commit or requests to commit an act of sexual gratification, in public or in private, involving the sex organ of one person and the mouth or anus of another for anything of value.
(c) Is an inmate of a place of prostitution.
(d) Masturbates a person or offers to masturbate a person or requests to be masturbated by a person for anything of value.
(e) Commits or offers to commit or requests to commit an act of sexual contact for anything of value.
You’ll quickly notice that every version of this requires something of value.  This is the traditional understanding of prostitution, but there are similar areas of law that don’t involve anything of value but do involve prostitutes.

Patronizing prostitutes – section 944.31 of the Wisconsin Statutes

Section 944.31 of the Wisconsin Statutes prohibits patronizing prostitutes.  The statute indicates:

…any person who enters or remains in any place of prostitution with intent to have nonmarital sexual intercourse or to commit an act of sexual gratification, in public or in private, involving the sex organ of one person and the mouth or anus of another, masturbation or sexual contact with a prostitute is guilty of the following:
(1) For a first or 2nd violation, a Class A misdemeanor.
(2) For a 3rd or subsequent violation, a Class I felony.

Importantly, Wisconsin Criminal Jury Instruction 1564 provides us with one important definition:  “A place of prostitution means any place where persons habitually engage in or offer to engage in nonmarital acts of sexual intercourse or sexual contact for anything of value.”  Considering this definition from a broad perspective, a place of prostitution could include a specific street where prostitutes frequent.

This serious criminal offense doesn’t require any exchange of money.  For example, driving up and down a specific street known for prostitution, with the intent to have sex, is enough to face criminal charges.  But how will the police know what your intent is?  Certainly a sting operation including an undercover police officer posing as a prostitute could be enough if you make a statement.  But if you’re arrested or stopped by police, it’s important to remain silent.  Usually you’ll just incriminate yourself when you talk.

A person exchange money

Soliciting a prostitute – section 944.32 of the Wisconsin Statutes

Soliciting a prostitute is another charge that does not require money or any item of value.  Described in section 944.32 of the Wisconsin Statutes, this law indicates:

…whoever intentionally solicits or causes any person to practice prostitution or establishes any person in a place of prostitution is guilty of a Class H felony.

Again, taking a look at the jury instructions helps explain this charge.  Wisconsin Criminal Jury Instruction 1566 provides the required elements of this offense:

  • Firstly, the defendant solicited or caused a person to practice prostitution.
    • To solicit means to command, encourage, or request another person to engage in specific conduct that constitutes the practice of prostitution.
    • To practice prostitution means intentionally engaging in sexual intercourse or other sexual acts for anything of value on an ongoing basis.
  • Secondly, the defendant acted intentionally.

Money (or “anything of value”) is not mentioned in this statute.  Therefore, the exchange of money is not required to face charges here, either.

For example, let’s assume a sting operation involving an undercover police officer posing as a prostitute.  That officer is in an area known for prostitution (this is not required for the statute).  The defendant pulls up to the officer and says, “Let’s have sex. I will give you $100.00.”  This statement, by itself, is enough to be charged with a felony in Wisconsin.

How to avoid being charged with a prostitution-related offense

At Van Severen Law Office, S.C., we’ve represented individuals who were arrested in areas known for prostitution.  A few of those cases involved very questionable actions by law enforcement.

Let’s consider the patronizing statute – simply remaining in an area known for prostitution is half of the crime.  If you find yourself in an area such as this, don’t talk to people you don’t know.  Certainly don’t talk to prostitutes, and assume that everyone is simply a law enforcement officer posing as prostitute.  The cop might not be recording the interaction – so what if she claims you tried to purchase sex?  Fighting a case involving two competing statements, when one is from a cop, is a very difficult situation to face.

Frequently police officers posing as prostitutes will begin conversations.  They’ll twist your words in an attempt to make it seem like you’re doing something you never intended.  If a prostitute tries talking to you, ignore them.  End the conversation and move away to a place where there are other witnesses present.

You can be charged with prostitution offenses without exchanging money.  Contact Van Severen Law Office, S.C. for help: (414) 270-0202

We’ve explained at least two situations that could lead to serious criminal charges that don’t involve the exchange of money.  And yet, these two crimes are labelled with offensive titles that will have an impact on you for the rest of your life.  We understand the embarrassment you’re feeling, and we recognize the discretion needed to fight a case like yours.

Our criminal defense lawyers at some of the best in Wisconsin.  To speak with one of those attorneys in a free, confidential, one-hour consultation, contact us immediately at (414) 270-0202.

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