What is the law on prostitution?

This post will discuss two common prostitution crimes:

  • Pimping
  • Common Nightwalker

What is pimping?

If a person knows another person is a prostitute or lives or derives support or maintenance, partially or completely, from the earnings or proceeds from his or her prostitution or gets a cut of such proceeds, he or she is committing a crime.

What is the punishment for pimping?

The official statute on pimping in Massachusetts is called “Deriving Support from Earnings of a Prostitute” and can be found in G.L. c. 272, § 7. This crime has a mandatory minimum sentence of two years.

A district court sentencing requires sentencing to a house of correction. The statute does not necessarily require a convicted defendant to serve time in State prison.

What does the government have to show to prove pimping activity took place?

In order to prove a defendant guilty of the offense of deriving support from the earning of a prostitute, the Commonwealth must prove the following three things beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • That a particular person engaged in prostitution
  • That the defendant knew that such a person was a prostitute
  • That the defendant shared in some way in the earnings or proceeds from that person’s prostitution

A prostitute is a person who engages in sexual activity for hire.

Is chauffeuring a prostitute illegal?

Yes, the statute prohibiting deriving support from the earnings of a prostitute also punishes anyone who lives or derives support from money loaned, advanced or charged against a prostituteby a keeper or manager or inmate of a house or other place where prostitution is practiced or allowed.

It is illegal to share the earnings, proceeds, or money of a prostitute.

One case, Commonwealth v. Thetonia (1989), Appeals Court ruled that a friend chauffeuring a prostitute in exchange for occasional gas money and drugs is insufficient to convict under this statute. The Court’s logic was that since the intention of the statute was to punish pimping, a minor indirect, financial benefit is not sufficient to be classified as “deriving support from the earnings of a prostitute.”

Is the punishment for pimping worse if the prostitute is a minor?

Yes, deriving support from the earnings of a prostitute who is a minor is an aggravated (more severe) offense. Conviction does not require that the defendant knew or should have known that the prostitute is a minor.

What does the government have to show to prove prostitution took place on my property?

The Commonwealth must prove all of the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • That the defendant owned, managed or assisted in the management or control of certain premises
  • That a person was present on those premises for the purpose of unlawfully having sexual intercourse
  • That the defendant induced or knowingly permitted the person’s presence on the premises for that purpose

What is a common nightwalker?

In Massachusetts prostitution is prosecuted under the name “Common Nightwalker.” Under Chapter 272, Section 53 of the General Laws, a common nightwalker is someone who is abroad at night, soliciting others to engage in unlawful sexual acts.

Commonwealth law states that “common night walkers…shall be punished…”

A common nightwalker is someone who is abroad at night, soliciting others to engage in unlawful sexual acts. Often it is a prostitute who solicits potential customers on the street.

Moreover, common nightwalker has come to mean a prostitute who solicits customers on the street.

What does the government have to show to prove someone is a common nightwalker?

In order to prove a defendant guilty of this offense, the Commonwealth must prove:

  • That the defendant was walking the streets at night
  • That the defendant was attempting to solicit someone to engage in an unlawful sexual act, such as an act of prostitution

Note that solicitation is inferable from circumstantial time, place, and frequency of the defendant’s conduct. For example in one case, there is solicitation where a defendant is on a corner with prostitutes, speaking with a male motorist, and getting into his vehicle. Testimony vouching for express soliciting conversation with the prospective customer is not necessary.

Note also that conviction for nightwalking does not require past or multiple acts. Additional evidence of “habitual” activity is not necessary to establish guilt.

Can the police target female prostitutes?

The Massachusetts Equal Rights Amendment (Article 106 of the Articles of Amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution) requires that a common nightwalking charge against a female defendant be dismissed with prejudice upon an appropriate showing that the particular police department or prosecutor’s office consistently prosecutes female nightwalkers but not their male customers.

Dismissed with prejudice means that the court has made a final determination on the merits of the case, and that the plaintiff cannot file another lawsuit based on the same grounds.

IF YOU OR A LOVED ONE HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH PIMPING, AND YOU NEED AN EXPERIENCED CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER WORKING ON YOUR SIDE TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS, PLEASE CONTACT CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY WILLIAM J. BARABINO.

CALL 781-393-5900 TO LEARN MORE ABOUT YOUR AVAILABLE DEFENSES.

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