Wisconsin prohibits prostitution in its many forms, from selling or buying sex of any kind to pimping and trafficking individuals for commercial sex purposes. Prostitution-related crimes are often misdemeanors, such as for prostitution or pandering. However, more significant involvement by gaining income off the prostitution, by pimping, or by keeping a place of prostitution are felony offenses. Human trafficking offenses are also more serious felonies due to the serious nature of forcing others into prostitution and means used.
If a customer goes beyond the agreed sexual activity with a prostitute and, for example, rapes him or her, this type of sexual contact is outlawed by Wisconsin's sexual assault laws. For more on these laws, see the Wisconsin Rape and Sexual Assault article.
Wisconsin Prostitution and Solicitation Laws: Statutes
The following table details the main provisions of Wisconsin's prostitution laws.
Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 940: Crimes Against Sexual Morality, Subchapter 5: Prostitution
What Is Prohibited?
Wisconsin prohibits any of the following prostitution related activities:
- Prostitution - Offering or requesting non-marital sexual intercourse or commiting or offering oral or anal sex for anything of value, being a brothel resident, masturbating another or offering to or requesting to be masturbated by another or commits or requests sexual contact for anything of value
- Patronizing Prostitutes - Entering or remaining in a place of prostitution to have non-marital sex, oral or anal sex, masturbation, or other sexual contact with a prostitute
Pandering - Soliciting a person to have non-marital sex, oral or anal sex, masturbation, or other sexual contact with a person the solicitor knows is a prostitute; also, facilitating another person to do any of these by directing or transporting the person or prostitute to each other.
- Soliciting Prostitutes - Intentionally soliciting or causing a person to engage in prostitution
- Keeping a Place of Prostitution - Intentionally keeping a brothel or allowing others to use a place for prostitution
In addition to these laws, some pimps and others can also be charged with human trafficking. Wisconsin prohibits knowing engaging in the trafficking (recruiting, harboring, transporting, obtaining, etc) of a person for labor, services, or commercial sex acts by any of the following means:
- Physical harm, force, or violence, or threats of any of these
- Financial harm or threats of it
- Debt bondage
- Restraining the person
- Violating any law
- Destroying, hiding, or possessing any identification document of the individual
- Fraud or deception
- Controlling or threatening to control access to addictive drugs
- Any other means of coercing, threatening, or intimidate the person
- Causing the person to do anything against his or her will or without his or her consent
Penalties for felonies and misdemeanors in Wisconsin vary by the class. The possible sentences for each of the above crimes are:
- Class D Felony - Imprisonment up to 25 years and a fine up to $100,000 (benefiting from human trafficking)
- Class F Felony - Imprisonment up to 12.5 years and a fine up to $25,000 (receiving compensation from human trafficking)
- Class H Felony - Imprisonment up to 6 years and a fine up to $10,000 (soliciting prostitutes, keeping a place of prostitution)
- Class A Misdemeanor - Imprisonment up to 9 months and a fine up to $10,000 (prostitution, patronizing a prostitute, pandering)
Additionally, if a person is injured or dies as a result of human trafficking, the victim or a family member can sue the person responsible in civil court for actual damages, punitive damages of up to 3x the amount of actual damages, and reasonable attorney's fees.
The appropriate defense for a prostitution case depends on the circumstances. For example, if a man is accused of solicitation, but was really asking a woman on the street from his car for directions, he may have an innocence defense. Some defenses are provided by the state law. For prostitution in Wisconsin, the court can order a consent decree or deferred prosecution agreement if the defendant is under 18 and it won't harm the best interests of the person and society.
Note: State laws change constantly -- it's important to verify the state laws that you’re researching.
If you've been charged with any prostitution-related crime, you should contact an experienced Wisconsin criminal defense attorney or public defender for advice and representation.