In recent years, the idea of legalizing prostitution has gathered steam, with proponents arguing that it would make the work safer for those involved and reduce human trafficking. Others argue that even in places where prostitution has been legalized, crime surrounding this activity remains high — including human trafficking. Whatever your viewpoint may be, in
Kentucky, prostitution — the buying and selling of sex — remains illegal.
Prostitution can be incredibly dangerous for those engaged in this type of work, with as many as 99% of women in sex work experiencing physical and/or sexual violence. The mortality rate for women in prostitution is 40 times higher than the general population. In Kentucky, human trafficking related to commercial sex remains a significant problem, with 50 cases reported in 2018 alone.
Being involved in prostitution has many challenges — including the possibility of being charged with a criminal offense. According to the Kentucky State Police, in 2017, there were 319 arrests for prostitution across the state. In addition, there were 21 arrests for assisting or promoting prostitution. The majority of these arrests happened in Fayette County (87), followed by Kenton County (76), Boone County (72) and Jefferson (65).
If you have been charged with a crime related to prostitution, you may be experiencing a variety of emotions, including shame or fear. A skilled criminal defense attorney can work with you to develop a strong defense to the charges, and to help you resolve the case favorably.
How Prostitution Is Defined Under Kentucky Law
Under Kentucky Revised Statute § 529.020, a person can be convicted of prostitution if he engages, agrees, or offers to engage in sexual conduct with another person in exchange for a fee. “Sexual contact” means sexual intercourse or any type of sexual gratification involving sex organs. Prostitution is a Class B misdemeanor in Kentucky, punishable by imprisonment for up to 90 days and/or a fine of up to $250.
The offense of prostitution covers both those who buy and sell sex. Importantly, a person cannot be convicted of prostitution simply based on the testimony of a patron, or on the testimony of someone who profits from prostitution. A prostitution conviction requires corroboration under Kentucky law.
If convicted of prostitution, a person will be required to undergo screening for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). If that individual had previously tested positive for a sexually transmitted disease, he or she may be charged with a Class A misdemeanor in addition to the prostitution offense. A person who knows that he or she is HIV+ and commits prostitution in a way that is likely to spread the virus may also be charged with a Class D felony.
There are a number of acts related to prostitution that may result in criminal charges. For example, a person who knowingly advances or promotes prostitution (commonly referred to as a “pimp”) can be charged with promoting prostitution. This offense is a Class A misdemeanor, unless the individual managed a house of prostitution or a business involving 2 or more prostitutes; in that case, the charge is a Class D felony.
If a person allows someone to use their home, business or property for the purposes of prostitution, they could be charged with the crime of permitting prostitution. This offense requires that the prosecution prove that the individual (1) knew or reasonably should have known that their premises were being used for prostitution and (2) failed to take reasonable and timely action to stop that use. Permitting prostitution is a Class B misdemeanor.
An individual can also be charged if law enforcement believes that they are hanging out — or loitering — for the purposes of prostitution. If a person remains in a public place to engage in prostitution, then they may be guilty of this offense, which is a violation for the first charge, and a Class B misdemeanor for a second or greater charge.
Finally, a person may be charged with crimes related to human trafficking, which involves forcing 1 or more people into forced labor or services or commercial sexual activity through the use of force, fraud or coercion. If the trafficked person is under the age of 18, then the commercial sexual activity does not need to involve force, fraud or coercion.
A person is guilty of the crime of human trafficking if they intentionally subject one or more people to human trafficking (as defined above). This crime is a Class C felony, unless the victim suffered a serious physical injury; it is then a Class B injury. If the victim is under the age of 18, the penalty level is increased by one.
Finally, an individual may also be charged with promoting human trafficking if they financially or otherwise benefit from knowingly participating in human trafficking, or if they recruit or attempt to recruit a person into human trafficking. Promoting human trafficking is a Class D felony, unless the victim is under age 18, in which case it is a Class C felony.
Defending Against a Kentucky Prostitution Charge
It can be challenging to beat a prostitution charge, particularly in Kentucky, where the laws against this type of activity are relatively strict. However, a skilled criminal defense attorney can analyze your case to develop both factual and legal defenses to the charge.
As an initial matter, if the arrest was the result of an undercover police sting, it may be possible to argue that you were entrapped by law enforcement. It is often challenging to prove entrapment, which occurs when the police induce a person to do something that they wouldn’t normally do. In prostitution cases, entrapment may be a viable case if a police officer convinced you to accept money in exchange for sex — and you otherwise have no record of engaging in prostitution.
Alternatively, there may not be enough evidence to support a charge of prostitution. In Kentucky, all prostitution charges require corroboration. It is not enough for a patron or a promoter of prostitution to testify that a person engaged in this crime; without additional evidence, the charge must be dismissed.
There are other potential defenses to the crime of prostitution. Being a victim of human trafficking is an affirmative defense to any prostitution-related crime. If your attorney can demonstrate that you are a victim of human trafficking, then this may result in all charges against you being dismissed.
Similarly, minors in Kentucky (anyone under the age of 18) cannot be charged with either prostitution or loitering for prostitution. If a law enforcement officer detains a minor for either of these crimes, that minor should not be prosecuted. Instead, the minor may be taken into protective custody, and an investigation into child dependency, neglect or abuse should be started.
If a person is convicted of a prostitution-related offense and it is later learned that they were a victim of human trafficking, then they can move to have their criminal record expunged. This motion should be filed within 60 days after a judgment was entered by the court. If the court finds that the person’s participation in the crime was a direct result of human trafficking, then the charges shall be dismissed.
The defense used in a prostitution case will vary depending on the facts of the case. Working with an attorney who is both experienced in handling sex crimes cases and knowledgeable about Kentucky law will increase your chances of a favorable outcome, which may include a reduction or dismissal of the charges.
Work with a Lexington Prostitution Attorney
While being charged with prostitution or related crime may be embarrassing, you do not have to plead guilty and attempt to put it behind you. There are numerous possible defenses that may be used in these types of cases, particularly if you are a victim of human trafficking, are under the age of 18, or if the police entrapped you.
Baldani Law Group understands that our clients experience a great deal of anxiety when charged with a Kentucky criminal offense. We are here to help. We will advocate for you, working to achieve the best outcome based on the facts of your case.
If you have been charged with prostitution in Kentucky, our firm is here for you. Contact us online or call our office at 859-259-0727 to schedule a free initial consultation.