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Pennsylvania Prostitution Laws

Overview of 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.

Additional details of Pennsylvania's prostitution laws are listed below.

Statute Penn. Statutes Title 18, § 5902
Statutory Definition of Prostitution

A person is guilty of prostitution if he or she:

  1. is an inmate of a house of prostitution or otherwise engages in sexual activity as a business;  or
  2. loiters in or within view of any public place for the purpose of being hired to engage in sexual activity.
Grading of the Offenses


  1. Misdemeanor of the third degree when the offense is a first or second offense.
  2. Misdemeanor of the second degree when the offense is a third offense.
  3. Misdemeanor of the first degree when the offense is a fourth or subsequent offense.
  4. Felony of the third degree if the person who committed the offense knew that he or she was human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) positive or manifesting acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).


Promoting Prostitution 2nd degree misdemeanor to 3rd degree felony (depending on the nature of the offense)
Patronizing Prostitutes A person commits the offense of patronizing prostitutes if that person hires a prostitute or any other person to engage in sexual activity with him or her or if that person enters or remains in a house of prostitution for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity.

Defenses to Prostitution Charges

  • Sexual activity not performed for a business purpose
  • Entrapment arranged by police or law enforcement officials

Penalties and Sentences

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.

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- please contact an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Pennsylvania Prostitution Laws: Related Resources

Facing Prostitution or Solicitation Charges? An Attorney Can Help

Whether you are working as a prostitute, frequenting a house of prostitution, soliciting prostitution, or promoting it, all are considered crimes in Pennsylvania. If you have been charged with one of these offenses, make sure you seek legal counsel. Get some peace of mind today by contacting a Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney.

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