Laws against pimping and pandering make encouraging or profiting from prostitution a crime. These laws focus on those who recruit or force others into sex work. Pimps operate like managers of sex workers, extracting fees from the customers' payment for services. Panderers bring people into sex work, often through intimidation or threats. In most states, these crimes are felonies that expose offenders to prison time.
Even in Nevada, the only state in the U.S. in which prostitution is legal, pandering is a felony. All states punish those seeking to recruit or profit from the prostitution of others. Read on to learn more about the crimes of pimping and pandering, including elements of the crimes and possible penalties.
The Elements of Pimping and Pandering
Federal and state laws prohibit acts consistent with pimping and pandering. The names and elements of these crimes may vary somewhat based on the jurisdiction. Some states incorporate both pimping and pandering into one cause of action. In New Jersey, for example, the crime of promoting prostitution includes provisions that address pimping, pandering, patronizing a prostitute, and holding oneself out as a prostitute. In most states, these crimes are related but addressed separately.
Federal law in this area derives from the Mann Act, a law that prohibits transporting someone across state lines for prostitution or sexual exploitation. The law makes it illegal to transport an individual in interstate or foreign commerce in any U.S. state or territory to engage the individual in an act of prostitution or any sexual acts that amount to a crime. Conviction can lead to a prison sentence of up to 10 years and a fine.
Pandering generally requires the following elements:
- Procurement of a person for the purpose of prostitution
- Specific intent to promote, encourage, or otherwise facilitate prostitution
Prostitution involves engaging in sexual activity for hire. The compensation may be monetary or based on some other benefit. In many states, a broad range of behaviors qualifies as procurement. For example, it may involve acquiring a spot for someone in a brothel or house of prostitution. It could also include threatening someone with violence unless they become a sex worker or enticing them to engage in prostitution. An attempt to do such acts will also qualify.
When a crime requires specific intent, the offender must demonstrate knowledge or purpose in their conduct. For example, if a business owner is unaware that some of her employees are prostituting themselves at her place of business, she wouldn't be guilty of pandering. To get a conviction in a pandering case, the state needs to show someone knew or intended the prostitution. Mistakes or ignorance on their part will not be enough.
Pimping, on the other hand, generally requires the following:
- Receipt of benefits from a sex worker as a result of their sex services
- Specific intent to receive money and/or benefits from a sex worker as a result of their sex services
The receipt of money and/or benefits may be direct. For example, Alex meets Jack at the bar of the hotel where a business convention is taking place. Alex arranges for Trudy to go to Jack's room to engage in sex. Jack pays Trudy. Alex collects a portion of the payment from Trudy.
Receipt of a benefit may also be indirect. Let's say Alex and Jack are both attending the convention. Alex wants Jack to invest in his business. Alex sends a subordinate who owes him a favor to have sex with Jack. Alex later closes the deal with Jack.
In each example, Alex has a specific intent. He is pimping out a sex worker for a financial gain. In contrast, let's say Trudy paid rent to her landlord with money she earned from prostitution. The landlord accepts the funds but is unaware of how she made the money. The landlord does not have a specific intent and wouldn't be guilty of pimping.
Who Investigates Cases of Pimping and Pandering?
It depends. In cases where an offender takes someone across state lines to engage in prostitution or illegal sex acts, the FBI may investigate the case under federal law. Likewise, incidents involving sex trafficking or human trafficking between cities or across state borders may trigger a federal investigation. Local police officers and detectives are more apt to investigate cases involving isolated or limited incidents in one area.
Pimping and Pandering: Criminal Penalties
The penalties for violating pimping and pandering laws are much more severe than those for prostitution or solicitation. Prostitution and solicitation of a prostitute are misdemeanors in most states. In contrast, most states classify pimping and pandering crimes as felony offenses. Committing these crimes may subject the offender to years in prison and/or tens of thousands of dollars in fines, depending on applicable state or federal law. If the sex worker involved is a minor, the penalties increase.
Under the California Penal Code 266h and 266i, for example, an offender faces three, four, or six years in state prison (and a possible $10,000 fine) for one count of either pimping or pandering. The penalties rise to three, six, or eight years in prison if the offender's actions involve pimping or pandering a minor under 16 years old. In other states, the penalties can be even more harsh.
Under Florida law, the offenses of pimping and pandering appear with different titles. For example, instead of pimping, Florida has a crime against deriving support from the proceeds or earnings of a prostitute. (See F.S.A. Section 796.05.) The statute prohibits a person with reasonable belief or knowledge that another is engaged in prostitution from living or deriving support or maintenance from the proceeds of such prostitution.
A felony offense in the second degree, an offender can face up to 15 years in prison, a $10,000 fine, or both. If an offender has a prior criminal record of this nature, it will elevate the crime to a first-degree offense. Under that scenario, an offender can face up to 30 years in prison, a $10,000 fine, or both.
In most jurisdictions, pimping and pandering also qualify as sex offenses. As a sex offender, someone with a pimping or pandering conviction must register their address on an annual basis with local law enforcement. As registration statutes vary between the states, contact a criminal defense lawyer to verify whether a given crime requires registration.
In contrast, state laws tend to provide lesser penalties for adults who:
- Solicit an adult prostitute to engage in sex for hire
- Offer to engage in sex for hire with another adult
- Engage in loitering to solicit another adult for sex for hire
Under the Ohio Revised Code, all three of these crimes are misdemeanors of the third degree. An offender will face at most 60 days in county jail, a fine of up to $500, or both.
Pimping and Pandering: Defenses
As with all criminal charges, a defendant may assert various affirmative defenses to avoid conviction. These include, but are not limited to:
- Coercion or Duress: A third party forced them to engage in criminal conduct against their will.
- Insanity: A claim that due to a mental illness, they did not appreciate the difference between right and wrong.
- Entrapment: The government (often through an undercover police officer) took some inappropriate action that provided the idea of the crime and caused the defendant to engage in criminal conduct they otherwise would not have taken.
- Mistake of Fact: The defendant did not understand the circumstances and did not knowingly commit a crime.
- Involuntary Intoxication: The conduct in question occurred after someone caused the defendant to become intoxicated against their will.
A defendant may also seek to point out deficiencies in the state's case. In this scenario, they claim the state did not meet its burden of proving each element beyond a reasonable doubt.
To put forward the best defense requires a fair assessment of all the circumstances in light of the law at issue. For this reason, it makes sense to work with a local attorney to determine the best defense strategy for your case.
Get Professional Help With Sex Crime Charges
Defending against pimping and pandering charges is no easy task and requires a solid understanding of the law and your rights. Whether you face felony charges of pimping or pandering or misdemeanor charges of solicitation, a criminal defense attorney can help you. They can develop a defense plan tailored to your case. Consider getting legal advice. You can meet with an experienced sex crimes attorney near you.