As with every state in the union except for Nevada, prostitution is illegal in Minnesota. Any buying or selling of sex, or facilitating such a transaction, is considered prostitution by the state and will be prosecuted. Most of the state’s laws and penalties related to prostitution are covered in State Statute 609.324. Prostitution charges only apply when someone willingly enters into an agreement to sell sex, however. If a person is forced into performing sex acts for money, the much more serious charge of sex trafficking is levied. The terms that govern sex trafficking can be found under State Statute 609.322.
FOR THOSE WHO BUY SEX
Minnesota law calls those who solicit prostitutes “patrons.” The charges are a bit confusing in this area, since there are different charges depending upon whether the solicitation took place in a public or private place. Being in public elevates the charge from a misdemeanor to a gross misdemeanor. However, in both cases, the punishment is just a fine: $500 for the misdemeanor and $1500 for the gross misdemeanor, and it is possible to get the fine converted to community service. If you get a second violation within two years of your first, however, it becomes a gross misdemeanor automatically and in addition to the $1500 fine, you may be given 20 hours of community service.
All of this presumes that the person solicited was age 18 or older, of course. If they were a minor, the charges are more severe. If they are age 16 or older, there can be five years incarceration and a $10,000 fine. If they are age 13 or older this jumps to 10 years incarceration and $20,000, and if they are under the age of 13 it could mean a sentence of 25 years and a fine of $40,000.
One other point of note comes into play if a vehicle is involved. Say someone pulls up to a streetwalker in their car and solicits sex. If they were to be arrested on the spot, a notation would be added to their driving record. Now, this notation is kept private except to law enforcement officials if there’s only one offense. With subsequent offenses, however, all of these notations become public.
FOR THOSE WHO SELL SEX
The penalties for the prostitute are the same as they are for the patron. It’s a misdemeanor in a private place, a gross misdemeanor in public, and a gross misdemeanor with added community service requirements if it is the second such offense in two years.
Prostitutes are generally not charged if it is found that they are being forced or coerced into selling sex, however. In this case, the person forcing them would be charged with sex trafficking instead. This is an extremely serious charge that can have a maximum sentence of 25 years with a fine of $50,000.
LEGAL DEFENSES FOR PROSTITUTION IN MINNESOTA
If you worked as a prostitute but felt pressured to do it by another party, you may be protected under sex trafficking laws. Sex trafficking doesn’t consist solely of threats of violence or threats against your life. If someone is controlling your means of housing and personal support and threatens to take those things away from you if you don’t engage in prostitution, they are engaging in sex trafficking. Telling you that you have to engage in prostitution to pay off a debt is also a form of sex trafficking. If you feel you are a victim of sex trafficking, in addition to seeking the services of a defense attorney, you can also reach out to a number of community organizations for help. Some options are the National Human Trafficking Hotline, the Minnesota Human Trafficking Task Force and the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota.
Entrapment is a possible defense for anyone charged with prostitution. Minnesota police are allowed to set up “stings” in which an officer poses as either a seller or buyer of sex, but they are in violation of the law if they actually engage in sexual contact at any time.
Insufficient evidence is also a potential defense if the arresting officer did not actually record the agreement to pay for sex. The wording of the agreement also may have been too vague to specify that money was to be exchanged for sex.
If you are in need of a defense lawyer for a prostitution charge, we can discuss your options with you with no obligation on your part. Contact us at any time.