You are here: Information Center >> Criminal Law >> Specific Offenses >> Prostitution


The act of offering money or items of value to someone to perform a sexual act is generally prohibited. State laws and city ordinances govern the regulation of prostitution and apply to those individuals engaged in prostitution as well as persons controlling, managing or owning a prostitution enterprise, such as a brothel. Additionally, the promoting of prostitution, i.e., receiving proceeds of the prostitution, is unlawful. These crimes are often categorized as a lesser degree felony.

Federal law prevents commerce in prostitution. The Mann Act, also known as the White Slave Act, makes coercing any woman or girl to travel between the states for the purpose of prostitution illegal. The Mann Act includes the broad category of "immoral acts" as well as prostitution. Offenses under the Mann Act may be punished with to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Under federal law, enticement of minors for the purpose of coercing the minor into immoral acts or illegal sexual activity is a felony, punishable by not less than 5 years and up to 50 years imprisonment. The Mann Act has recently been used to prosecute individuals luring minors across state lines through an Internet relationship, whether or not the minor actually traveled to meet the individual. Computer communications such as e-mail and instant messages fulfill the interstate commerce requirement.