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Pimping and Pandering Laws

Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors.

Pimping and pandering laws are meant to undercut the sex industry by targeting the intermediaries - those who solicit money from sex workers, transport them to and from hotspots, recruit them into the sex industry, and advertise sex services. Even in Nevada, the only state in the U.S. in which prostitution is legal, pandering is a felony. All states, therefore, punish individuals seeking to encourage work in the sex industry. The choice to enter into and remain in the sex industry must be made entirely by the sex worker.

The Elements of Pimping and Pandering

Some states incorporate both pimping and pandering into one cause of action. In New Jersey, for example, the crime of promoting prostitution is a broad substitute for pimping and pandering, and specifically targets non-sex-worker individuals who benefit, promote, or earn money from prostitution. In most states, however, these crimes are related, but addressed separately.

Pandering generally requires the following elements:

  1. Procurement of a person for the purpose of prostitution. In many states, a broad range of behaviors qualifies as procurement: securing a spot in a brothel for someone, threatening a person with violence unless they become a sex worker, giving a substantial gift to entice someone to become a sex worker, etc. This element is also satisfied if a person attempt to procure a person for prostitution.
  2. Specific intent to promote, encourage, or otherwise facilitate prostitution. For example, if a business owner is unaware that some of her employees are prostituting themselves at her place of business, she wouldn't be guilty of pandering. An individual can only be found guilty if they actually knew of the prostitution-at-issue, not for their mistake or ignorance.

Pimping, on the other hand, generally requires the following:

  1. Receipt of benefits from a sex worker as a result of their sex services. The receipt of money and/or benefits can be direct or indirect. For example, if a man has control over a woman, and he exerts this control so that the woman has sex with a potential business partner (in the hope that this exchange of sex will positively influence the business partner's dealings with the man), it would likely be considered a receipt of indirect benefits.
  2. Specific intent to receive money and/or benefits from a sex worker as a result of their sex services. For instance, if a landlord receives money from his tenant that was she earned from prostitution, but he's unaware that the money was made that way, the landlord wouldn't be guilty of pimping.

Penalties for Pimping and Pandering

The penalties for violating pimping and pandering laws are much more severe than those for prostitution or solicitation. Unlike prostitution and solicitation, which are classified as misdemeanors in most states, pimping and pandering are typically classified as felonies. Committing these crimes may subject the violator to over a decade of jail time and tens of thousands of dollars in monetary punishment, depending on applicable state law and whether the sex worker involved was a minor.

In California, for example, a violator faces three, four, or six years in state prison (and a $10,000 fine) for one count of either pimping or pandering. The penalties rise to three, six, or eight years in prison if the violator is accused of pimping or pandering a minor. In other states, the penalties can be as harsh as up to thirty years in prison for procurement of a minor into the sex industry.

Defenses to Pimping and Pandering

As with all criminal charges, a defendant may assert various affirmative defenses to avoid conviction. These include, but are not limited to, coercion/duress, insanity, entrapment, mistake of fact, and involuntary intoxication. It's important to keep in mind that the availability of a particular defense will vary significantly depending on the specific circumstances of your situation and state case law. For this reason, it's best to work with a local attorney to determine the best defense strategy for each case.

Get Professional Help with Your Sex Crime Charges

Defending against pimping and pandering charges is no easy task and requires a solid understanding of the law and your rights. The assistance of a competent attorney can help develop a defense plan tailored to your case. Get started today by meeting with an experienced sex crimes attorney near you.

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