Sex trafficking is a serious crime, with the possibility of several different parties being involved.
In many prostitution cases, the legal line between “victim” and “criminal” is blurry. Some prostitutes claim the job is a choice, some have been forced into the world of sex trafficking, and some are too young to know the difference.
So who is criminalized in Minnesota? Who will be affected when a sex trafficking ring is busted?
Prostitutes. It’s estimated that between 30-50% of prostitutes are under the age of 18. The average age for a girl entering into prostitution is 13 years old.
In 2011, Minnesota joined 10 other states by decriminalizing sex work for minors to reduce exploitation and encourage young sex workers to seek help for abuse and mistreatment. The effects of decriminalizing prostitution, often called “Safe Harbor Laws,” are being studied at the federal level, where lawmakers anticipate making similar changes.
For prostitutes over the age of 18, consequences differ based on location and prior convictions. The penalties are as follows:
- Engaging/being hired as a prostitute in a public place: gross misdemeanor; up to 1 year in jail and/or a $3,000 fine
- Loitering in a public place: misdemeanor; up to 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine
- Engaging/being hired as a prostitute in a private location: misdemeanor; up to 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine
- Engaging/being hired as a prostitute in a private location with prior convictions: gross misdemeanor; up to 1 year in jail and/or a $3,000 fine
Families of prostitutes. Some children or adults enter into sex work to provide for their families. Children and seniors who are financially supported by sex work earnings will not be held accountable for accepting wages earned by sex workers in their family.
Solicitors or “Johns.” If you hire a prostitute who is 18 years or older, you will be charged with a misdemeanor and must pay a fine of at least $500. If the prostitution takes place in public, the fine will increase to $1,500. A second conviction within two years will result in a gross misdemeanor charge, and you will have to pay over $1,500 and engage in 20 hours of community service.
If your car was used to solicit or engage in prostitution, the conviction will be added to your driving record. Your first conviction can only be viewed by law enforcement, but multiple convictions are public information.
Hiring an underage prostitute in Minnesota is even more serious. It will result in a felony charge and penalties that are based on the age of the sex worker:
- Under the age of 18 (but over 16): up to 5 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine
- Under the age of 16 (but over 13): up to 10 years in prison and/or a $20,000 fine
- Under the age of 13: up to 20 years in prison and/or a $40,000 fine.
Hiring a sex worker under the age of 13 will also require you to register as a Minnesota sex offender. Appearing on this registry may restrict you from a number of future employment and living options.
Sex Traffickers. Penalties are harshest for sex traffickers, also known as “pimps” or “madams.” Trafficking involves the promotion of prostitution. Within Minnesota state lines, sex trafficking is a state offense, but if the acts cross over into other states, you may find yourself facing federal charges. Sex trafficking in Minnesota is classified as one of two charges:
Sex Trafficking in the First Degree
You can be charged with sex trafficking in the first degree if you are found:
- Soliciting someone to engage in underage prostitution (patrons excluded)
- Promoting underage prostitution
- Receiving profit from underage prostitution
- Recruiting, enticing, obtaining underage persons to engage in prostitution
If you are found guilty of sex trafficking in the first degree, you will be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison and/or a $50,000 fine.
The following aggravating factors will result in up to 25 years in jail and/or a $60,000 fine:
- Prior human trafficking convictions within the 10 years
- Victims suffered physical harm during solicitation and prostitution
- Victim was held in debt bondage or forced labor for over 6 months
- Having multiple sex trafficking victims
Sex Trafficking in the Second Degree
You can be charged with sex trafficking in the second degree if you are found:
- Soliciting an adult to engage in prostitution (patrons excluded)
- Promoting prostitution
- Receiving profit from prostitution
- Housing unrelated minors for prostitution
- Any other forms of sex trafficking
If you are found guilty of sex trafficking in the second degree, you will be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison and/or a $40,000 fine.
There are ways to defend against prostitution charges, but you will need an experienced criminal defense attorney to lessen your sentence or prove your innocence. Be sure to contact a top Minnesota attorney who has previously won prostitution cases.
About the Author:
Christopher Keyser is a Minneapolis-based criminal and DWI defense attorney known for fighting aggressively for his clients and utilizing innovative tactics to get the most positive results. He has been featured in numerous media outlets due to the breadth and depth of his knowledge, and recognized as a Minnesota Super Lawyers Rising Star (2014–2015), a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013–2015), and a Top 40 Under 40 Attorney (2013–2015).