Prostitution Law & Legal Definition


Almost all states have laws making it illegal to engage in, promote, or profit from prostitution. The term "prostitution" generally means the commission by a person of any natural or unnatural sexual act, deviate sexual intercourse, or sexual contact for monetary consideration or other thing of value.

An escort service is any business, agency or person who, for a fee, commission, hire, reward or profit, furnishes or offers to furnish names of persons, or who introduces, furnishes or arranges for persons, who may accompany other persons to or about social affairs, entertainments or places of amusement, or who may consort with others about any place of public resort or within any private quarters. Escort services are generally legal, but if they are a cover for prostitution, they are not.

Besides engaging in, offering, or soliciting acts of prostitution, laws, which vary by state, also make it a crime to do the following:

  1. Cause or aid a person to commit or engage in prostitution.
  2. Procure or solicit patrons for prostitution.
  3. Provide persons or premises for prostitution purposes.
  4. Receive or accept money or other thing of value pursuant to a prior agreement with any person whereby he or she participates or is to participate in the proceeds of any prostitution activity.
  5. Operate or assist in the operation of a house of prostitution or a prostitution enterprise.

The following is an example of a New Mexico statute defining prostitution:

"Prostitution consists of knowingly engaging in or offering to engage in a sexual act for hire. As used in this section "sexual act" means sexual intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio, masturbation of another, anal intercourse or the causing of penetration to any extent and with any object of the genital or anal opening of another, whether or not there is any emission. Whoever commits prostitution is guilty of a petty misdemeanor, unless such crime is a second or subsequent conviction, in which case such person is guilty of a misdemeanor."