New York’s laws create no fewer than nine distinct criminal offenses related to prostitution: prostitution, prostitution in a school zone, patronizing a prostitute, patronizing a person for prostitution in a school zone, aggravated patronizing a minor for prostitution, promoting prostitution, permitting prostitution, compelling prostitution, and sex trafficking. In this article, our Queens prostitution defense lawyers will focus specifically on prostitution and patronizing a prostitute, two of the more commonly-charged crimes in this group of offenses.
Criminal Penalties for Prostitution in NYC
While most criminal offenses have differing levels of severity, which are indicated by “degree” (e.g. third degree marijuana possession, second degree manslaughter), there are no “degrees” of prostitution under New York’s criminal statutes. Unless it occurs in a school zone (in which case it is charged as a Class A Misdemeanor), prostitution is always charged as a Class B misdemeanor under NY Penal Law § 230.00.
Where many of New York’s criminal statutes are lengthy and complex in the definitions, grounds for criminal charges, and various exceptions and special rules they provide, NY Penal Law § 230.00 is surprisingly short and simple – just a single sentence. The full text of the statute reads as follows:
“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.”
A defendant who is convicted of prostitution will face New York’s criminal penalties for Class B misdemeanors, which can include up to three months in jail and a fine of up to $500. If the offense occurred in a school zone, making it a Class A misdemeanor, the defendant will face more serious penalties: up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
What is the Maximum Sentence for Patronizing a Prostitute?
The consequences for patronizing a prostitute – which can potentially be charged as a felony – are more complex. Unlike prostitution, patronizing a prostitute can be graded several different ways, depending on the circumstances of the crime:
- Third Degree – Class A Misdemeanor (NY Penal Law § 230.04)
- Second Degree – Class E Non-Violent Felony (NY Penal Law § 230.05)
- First Degree – Class D Non-Violent Felony (NY Penal Law § 230.06)
A defendant convicted of a Class D non-violent felony, like patronizing a prostitute in the first degree, would typically face a sentence ranging from one to seven years – or, in some cases, no prison time at all, with probation being sentenced instead.
However, because patronizing a prostitute in the first degree is classified as a “felony sex offense” under NY Penal Law § 70.80(1)(a), it is subject to “determinate sentencing,” in which a minimum portion of the sentence is fixed and absolutely must be served. The inmate may not be paroled until they have served this portion of the sentence in its entirety. NY Penal Law § 70.80(4)(a)(iii) specifies that “for a class D felony, the term must be at least two years and must not exceed seven years.”
Patronizing a prostitute in the second degree, which is a Class E non-violent felony, is not categorized as a felony sex offense by NY Penal Law § 70.80. A person who is convicted of a Class E non-violent felony in New York may be sentenced to one to four years in prison, or may be placed on probation instead of being incarcerated.
If I’m Convicted, Will I Be Required to Register as a Sex Offender?
If you are convicted of prostitution in New York, you will not have to register as a sex offender. However, you will be required to register if you are found or plead guilty to patronizing a prostitute and the offense was charged in the second or first degree. If the offense was charged in the third degree, you will be required to register only if the prostitute was younger than 17 years old at the time of the offense. You must also register if you were convicted of an equivalent offense in another state, but reside in New York.
The length of time for which you must remain registered will depend on how your “risk level” for reoffending is assessed by the court:
- Level 1 (Low Risk) – 20 years
- Level 2 (Moderate Risk) – Life/permanent
- Level 3 (High Risk/Safety Threat) – Life/permanent
As long as you are registered, you must comply with various rules and restrictions under the Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA), such as providing the New York Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) with up-to-date information about your address, screen names, and email address(es). You will also be visible on the Sex Offender Registry to anyone with an internet connection. Your photograph will be posted along with your personal information and license plate number(s), as well as information about:
- The date you were convicted.
- What you were convicted of.
- The age and sex of the victim.
- Your relationship to the victim.
- Whether you used force.
Get the Queens Criminal Defense Lawyer That’s Right for Your Case
If one of your loved ones was arrested for prostitution, patronizing a prostitute, or other offenses involving prostitution in New York City, you need a compassionate and experienced criminal defense lawyer with a history of effectively handling prostitution charges. Call the Brooklyn sex crime lawyers of Sullivan & Galleshaw at (800) 730-0135 to set up a free legal consultation. We will keep your information completely confidential.