Pennsylvania Prostitution Laws
Pennsylvania prohibits prostitution, which state law defines as sexual activity performed as a business. Under state law, a prosecutor can charge an individual who engages in sexual activity for a business purpose or who loiters in a public place seeking opportunities to engage in prostitution. In addition, a prosecutor can charge an individual with patronizing prostitutes if the individual enters a house of prostitution or pays someone to perform sexual acts.
State law also prohibits the promotion of prostitution. An individual promotes prostitution by operating a brothel or house of prostitution, hiring others to work as prostitutes, or otherwise engaging in the “pimping” of prostitutes. An individual who promotes prostitution often receives a part of the prostitute’s earnings.
Pennsylvania state laws set a range of penalties and sentences for prostitution crimes. In general, the severity of the sentence depends on the defendant’s prior prostitution offenses. State law charges a first or second offense of engaging in prostitution as a third degree misdemeanor, which can result in a maximum sentence of imprisonment for up to one year.
A third offense becomes a second degree misdemeanor, which increases the potential sentence to imprisonment for up to two years, while a fourth offense or greater increases the offense to a first degree misdemeanor, which can result in a sentence of up to five years of imprisonment. State law sets a similar range of penalties for individuals who patronize prostitutes.
If the defendant promoted prostitution, the state charges the offenses as a second degree misdemeanor unless the defendant’s activities meet the criteria for a third degree felony. For example, the offense might become a third degree felony if the defendant promoted child prostitution, operated or managed a house of prostitution, or promoted the prostitution of someone infected with HIV or AIDS. The maximum sentence in Pennsylvania for a third degree felony is seven years of imprisonment.