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An overview of prostitution in the state of Pennsylvania

People in Pennsylvania may believe their bodies are their own, and thus, they can do what they want with them. However, certain acts, such as prostitution, are prohibited by state law. Consequently, engaging in such activities could lead to criminal charges. In order to protect themselves, it is important for people to understand the state’s prostitution laws.

Engaging in “sexual activity as a business” is considered prostitution under Pennsylvania state law. This means that those who perform sex acts for profit may be charged with this offense. Additionally, loitering in or around public places in order to be hired for sexual activity may qualify as prostitution. People may also face prostitution allegations if they are inmates in houses of prostitution, or brothels.

Generally, prostitution is a misdemeanor offense in the state of Pennsylvania. The grade of the offense depends on the person’s prior record. First and second prostitution offenses are charged as third degree misdemeanors. Pennsylvania state law stipulates that this offense is punishable by up to one year in prison. For a third offense, people may be charged with a second degree misdemeanor and face up to two years in prison. Fourth or subsequent offenses are charged as first degree misdemeanors and carry a prison sentence of up to five years.

Prostitution charges are enhanced if people know that they have human immunodeficiency virus, HIV, or if they are displaying acquired immune deficiency syndrome, AIDS. In these situations, prostitution may be charged as a third degree felony. Pennsylvania state law provides a maximum sentence of up to seven years in prison for those who are convicted of this offense.

Those who patronize prostitutes may also face criminal charges. The second post in this two-part series will discuss solicitation charges and the potential consequences people face if convicted of that offense. 

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Gregory R. Gifford
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