If you have been charged with a prostitution offense in Phoenix or anywhere in Arizona, you are facing a mandatory sentence to jail if you are convicted. Retaining an experienced criminal defense lawyer from DM Cantor might help you to secure a favorable resolution to your case. If you try to defend yourself against prostitution charges without the help of an experienced lawyer, you are much less likely to obtain the outcome that you want. Here is some information about prostitution offenses in Arizona.
Watch David Michael Cantor explain Prostitution Charges in Arizona and continue reading to learn the different laws, punishments and defenses.
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What is Considered Prostitution in Arizona?
Prostitution is defined in A.R.S. § 13-3211 as occurring when someone engages in sexual conduct, agrees to engage in sexual conduct, or offers to engage in sexual conduct with someone else in exchange for money or something else of value. Prostitution is also illegal under the Phoenix Municipal Code § 23-52. Under this section, prostitution within the Phoenix city limits includes offering, committing, or agreeing to an act of prostitution or showing an intent to commit prostitution while being in a public place or in a motor vehicle by using hand or body gestures to beckon someone to stop, or by checking the person to see if he or she is a police officer. In most cases, prostitution will be charged when a person knowingly offers to engage in sexual activity for money or something else of value.
Prostitution is normally charged as a class 1 misdemeanor. However, people who have three or more prior convictions of prostitution can be charged with a class 5 felony under A.R.S. §13-3214. If you are facing prostitution charges, it is a good idea for you to talk to an experienced criminal defense lawyer to learn about the options that you have.
What are the Potential Penalties for a Prostitution Conviction?
Under both A.R.S. § 13-3214 and Phoenix Municipal Code §23-52, prostitution is a class 1 misdemeanor. If you are accused of engaging in prostitution in Phoenix, you may be charged under either the municipal code or the state law. The penalties that you might face will depend on whether it is a first or subsequent offense.
If you are convicted of a first offense of prostitution, you will face the following penalties:
- Mandatory minimum jail of 15 days up to a maximum of 6 months
- Potential fine of up to $2,500 under A.R.S § 13-802
- Additional 84% surcharge on any fines imposed
- Potential for probation for up to 3 years after the mandatory minimum jail is completed
If you have a prior conviction for prostitution and are subsequently convicted of a second prostitution offense, you will face the following penalties:
- Mandatory minimum jail sentence of 30 days up to a maximum of 6 months
- Fine of up to $2,500
- Additional 84% surcharge of any fines imposed
- Potential probation of up to 3 years after the minimum jail sentence is completed
If you have two prior prostitution convictions and are convicted of a third prostitution offense, you will face the following penalties:
- Mandatory minimum jail sentence of sixty days up to six months
- Fine of up to $2,500
- Additional surcharge of 84%
- Potential probation of up to three years after the minimum sentence of jail is completed
If you have three prior convictions for prostitution and are convicted of a fourth or subsequent offense, it is a class 1 misdemeanor under the Phoenix Municipal Code or a Class 5 felony under the Arizona Revised Statutes. Your potential penalties for a fourth offense will depend on whether you are charged under the municipal code or the state law.
If you are convicted under the municipal code of a fourth or subsequent prostitution offense, you will face the following penalties:
- Mandatory jail time of six months
- Fine of $2,500
- Additional 84% surcharge
- Up to three years of probation with classes and counseling as conditions after the six-month jail sentence is completed
If you are prosecuted for a fourth offense of prostitution under the state law, you may be charged with a Class 5 felony. A conviction for a fourth offense of prostitution as a Class 5 felony may result in the following penalties:
- Mandatory minimum of 180 days in jail or prison up to 2.5 years in prison
- Fine under A.R.S. § 13-801 of up to $150,000
- Probation after the minimum jail or prison sentence is completed
- Possible prison time ranging from 6 months to 2.5 years if first felony conviction
- If one prior felony conviction, prison ranging from 1 year to 3.75 years in prison
- If two or more prior felony convictions, then prison ranging from 2.25 years to 5.75 years in prison.
Collateral Consequences of a Prostitution Conviction on Your Record
All criminal convictions can cause collateral consequences that can impact you even after you have completed your sentence and your case has been closed. If you have a conviction for prostitution as a misdemeanor offense on your record, potential employers might see it when they ask you to submit to a background check. This might make it harder for you to find a job. Some landlords are also hesitant to agree to rent apartments or houses to people who have prostitution convictions, which might make it harder for you to find a suitable place to live.
A prostitution conviction can also strain the relationships that you have with your friends and family members and in your romantic relationships. It can also lead to stigma and humiliation if others learn of your conviction.
The collateral consequences that you might face can be more severe if you are convicted of a Class 5 felony prostitution offense. A felony conviction can prevent you from:
- Serving on a jury in Arizona.
- Your rights to vote may also be suspended until you have them restored.
- Prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm unless your civil rights have been restored.
- Obtaining certain professional licenses or security clearances that are required for engaging in certain professions or governmental jobs.
Finally, if you are a lawful permanent resident who has not yet become a naturalized U.S. citizen, a prostitution conviction can have immigration consequences. You can face deportation and removal proceedings as a lawful permanent resident even if you have lived in the U.S. and Arizona for years if you are convicted of prostitution.
Common Defenses to Charges of Prostitution
Several different defenses might be available to you when you are facing prostitution charges, including the following:
- Victim of sex trafficking
- Mistake of fact
- Violations of your Miranda rights
- Denial of your right to an attorney
In 2014, Gov. Greg Ducey signed H.B. 2454 into law. This act added an affirmative defense to prostitution charges to A.R.S. § 13-3214. This defense was added because many sex trafficking victims were previously charged with and convicted of prostitution instead of being treated as victims. If you committed an act of prostitution because you were a victim of sex trafficking and were coerced or forced into prostitution, you should be able to successfully defend against the charges against you.
To help you assert this defense, your experienced prostitution defense lawyer may engage in a thorough investigation to uncover evidence that you are a human trafficking victim. By presenting this type of evidence, your attorney might secure a dismissal of the charges against you and help you to get to a place of safety out of the reach of the person or people who have trafficked you.
Another defense to prostitution is a mistake of fact. A mistake of fact occurs when a person does not have the necessary mens rearequired for a prostitution offense. Mens rea refers to the intent to commit an act of prostitution in exchange for money or something valuable. An example of mistake of fact might include a woman standing on a street corner in an area frequented by prostitutes and johns while wearing a miniskirt who waves back at someone in a passing vehicle but who has no intention of engaging in an act of prostitution. If you were charged with prostitution after making a mistake of fact, you should be insulated from the prostitution charge because the prosecutor would be unlikely to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you intended to engage in sexual activity in exchange for something of value.
Entrapment is a strong defense to a prostitution charge. Entrapment occurs when a person is induced to commit a criminal offense by an undercover officer which he or she would ordinarily not do in the absence of the officer’s actions. An example of this might occur when an undercover officer contacts a private dancer from an online advertisement for private dancing services and then starts offering very large amounts of money to try to encourage the dancer to participate in a sex act. If the dancer would not have agreed to a sex act without the large offers of money by the officer, it is possible to successfully defend against the prostitution charge.
Another defense that sometimes can be raised is that the prosecution is unable to prove the offense beyond a reasonable doubt because the officers acted too quickly and arrested someone for prostitution before an agreement to exchange sex for money took place. Your lawyer might investigate whether any money was paid or if any physical contact occurred to indicate that an act of prostitution was going to take place.
Some potential constitutional challenges might be raised, depending on how the officers conducted their investigation and questioning of the defendant. When you are placed under arrest or are in the custody of the police and are not free to leave, the officers are required to read you your Miranda rights before they can question you. If the officers failed to properly Mirandize you, any incriminating statements that you subsequently made during questioning may be suppressed. Similarly, if you made incriminating statements because the officer coerced you or placed you under duress, it is possible to have your statements suppressed.
You also have the right to an attorney when you have been accused of a crime and have been placed under arrest. If you ask for a lawyer, the police are supposed to stop trying to question you immediately. If the officers continued to question you after you asked for a lawyer, your statements can be suppressed.
Our Defense Attorneys Can Help
An experienced criminal defense lawyer should carefully review your case and the evidence against you to identify all of the potential defenses that might be available to you. By identifying and raising different defenses, your attorney may be able to secure the dismissal of your charges, get your charges reduced to a lesser offense, or win an acquittal from a jury or judge. Since prostitution is considered to be a crime of moral turpitude in Arizona, you have the right to have your case heard by a jury. While you can choose between a bench trial in front of a judge or a jury trial in front of a jury, it might be best for you to choose a jury trial because it is more difficult for a prosecutor to meet his or her burden of proof to multiple jurors than it is to a single judge. Your lawyer should discuss all of the defenses that might be raised and help you to decide whether you should opt for a jury or bench trial.
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DM Cantor is AV® rated and is listed in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers®, Criminal Law Section. David M. Cantor is an Expert Criminal Defense Lawyer and has a proven track record in defense of Prostitution charges in Arizona. Call DM Cantor at 602-691-5907 or Contact Us to discuss your prostitution case.