The word prostitution refers to the exchange of money for a sexual act. Prostitution is illegal throughout most of the United States, although there are exemptions for some sex workers. In addition to the prostitutes, their customers and those who promote or profit from prostitution are generally committing violations as well. It is also illegal to offer or solicit acts of prostitution.

Prostitution may be one of the most troubling crimes in the United States. It is one of the oldest professions in the world and has long been considered a fall-back option for women without any other career choices. It is also heavily linked to the illegal drug trade, with many prostitutes being addicts who are willing to trade sexual favors in exchange for drugs. However, increasing research into the sex industry has revealed that many prostitutes are not actually willing sex workers, but, instead, people who have been forced into the sex trade through human trafficking or even simple coercion. This revelation is sparking slow changes in how criminal justice officials approach prostitution as a crime. Instead of focusing on sex workers, more and more jurisdictions are focusing on prosecuting clients (“johns”) and those who promote prostitution (“pimps” or “madams”). Despite these evolving changes, many cities still actively prosecute sex workers and the criminal records of any long-time sex workers are almost certainly going to include arrests, charges, and/or convictions for prostitution and prostitution-related crimes. In addition, it is not unusual for those convicted of prostitution-related crimes to also have crimes for drug charges.

Usually, prostitution is charged as a misdemeanor. However, crimes related to prostitution, such as causing or aiding a person to commit or engage in prostitution, or operating or assisting in the operation of a brothel or a prostitution enterprise may result in felony charges.

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