In the last legislative session, the Virginia legislature enacted new laws and amended some existing laws regarding prostitution, pandering, and commercial sex trafficking. As a result of the changes, many offenses in this category were elevated to higher-level felonies than they previously had been, and the new law is expected to sweep in a number of people who would have previously avoided prosecution.
The new law, Va Code Section 18.2-357.1, creates a Class 5 Felony for anyone who encourages, causes, or attempts to cause another person to engage in prostitution with the intent to receive money or assist someone else in receiving money. To prove this offense, the Commonwealth would have to prove that the defendant took some substantial step toward encouraging someone else to have sex for money, and that he intended to receive some or all of the money himself or pass it to another person. If found guilty under this law, and the person engaging in the sex act was not a minor, then the defendant could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison. If the person was a minor at the time of the offense, then it could be up to 20 years in prison. And if force, threats, or intimidation were used to force the person to engage in prostitution, the minimum recommended sentence is two years.
The usual pandering (prostitution) law was also amended. It increased the penalty for when a minor is involved from a class 4 to a class 3 felony, making the sentence between 5 to 20 years in prison.
What to do When Arrested for Prostitution or Pandering?
Whenever laws are changed, there is always the potential that an innocent person can get inadvertantly caught up in an otherwise legitimate sweep of arrests. There is also the possibility that someone will be arrested and charged under the wrong law, even if they did have some involvement in an incident. These types of charges are very serious, and when convicted they will remain on your criminal record permanently. Because of the nature of the charge, they can cause significant problems later in life as you try to gain employment.
When you or a loved one is charged in Virginia with a sexual offense like prostitution, it is important to have a Virginia criminal defense attorney who understands these laws and is up to date on the legitimate defenses available. Contact us for a free consultation on your case.