Prostitution in New Jersey

Recent arrest data indicates that New Jersey ranks ninth nationally among U.S. states in the number of arrests for prostitution. How is prostitution defined? It is an act of engaging in sexual activity with “another person for something of economic value.” Between 2012 and 2016 in New Jersey there were an estimated 4,715 arrests for activity related to prostitution. The majority of those arrested are female, as is indicated in the chart below.

Rates of Female Prostitution Arrests

Atlantic City




Passaic County








Promoting Prostitution

Offenses that are considered as those that promote prostitution include: 

  • Having control, owning, or managing a property that facilitates prostitution as a business. A “house of prostitution” is a venue where this activity is conducted under management or supervision.
  • Persuading, recruiting, or otherwise acquiring someone to work as a prostitute
  • The solicitation of patrons for the business
  • Involvement in transportation needed to engage in prostitution
  • Leasing or allowing a location to be knowingly used for prostitution

Committing an Offense

  • Being a patron of prostitution
  • Knowingly promoting prostitution involving minors
  • A parent, guardian, or person responsible for a child's care who promotes or allows a child to participate in prostitution
  • Being a patron of prostitution that requests or engages in sexual activity with a minor

It is a first-degree offense to promote prostitution involving a minor. It is a second-degree offense if a patron requests or engages in sexual activity with a minor. It is a third-degree offense to promote or compel a spouse or another individual to engage in prostitution. Those who otherwise participate in prostitution as a patron may be charged with a fourth-degree offense. It is generally a disorderly person offense to offer or propose to engage in sexual activity in exchange for something of value.

Those charged with a disorderly person offense that has a subsequent conviction (re-offends) may be charged with a fourth-degree offense. If a motor vehicle is used to commit these offenses the court may suspend the offender's driving privileges for six months. Those alleged to have worked as a prostitute may employ a defense that they were a victim of human trafficking and were conscripted.

Loitering for Purposes of Engaging in Prostitution (2C: 34-1.1)

This is a disorderly person offense that may be committed by roaming, standing, or lurking in a public setting to promote prostitution. A public place may include streets, walkways, malls, parking areas, entryways, etc. The types of conduct that may be demonstrated that relate to promoting prostitution may include continually signaling, stopping, or otherwise engaging those who are walking or driving by.

Diseased Person Committing Act of Sexual Penetration (2C:34-5)

It is a fourth-degree offense for someone who is aware they have a venereal disease such as gonorrhea, syphilis, or herpes to engage in acts of sexual penetration without informing the other person. The crime is upgraded to a third-degree offense if someone who is aware that they have HIV or AIDS engages in acts of sexual penetration without informing the other person.

Additional Penalties for Patrons in Prostitution

Those who are convicted of a disorderly person offense for patronizing a prostitute may be subject to the Prostitution Offender Program. There is a $500 fee that must be paid that funds the state's Human Trafficking Survivor Assistance Fund. These are education programs that are approved by the Attorney General and the Commission on Human Trafficking. Topics covered include health risks such as diseases that are associated with prostitution and the problems caused by human trafficking.

Human Trafficking

In recent years there has been a surge in the number of arrests for human trafficking across the U.S. The crime is committed when a victim is coercively, forcefully, or deceitfully made to engage in commercial sexual activity. The crime is also committed when any minor is induced into prostitution. In New Jersey in the first half of 2018, there were 98 suspected cases reported. It is classified as a first-degree offense.

New Jersey also added a second-degree charge that applies to an offender who “provides services, resources, or assistance” in human trafficking endeavors. These offenses may be committed by knowingly providing financial support, offering transportation, making accommodations available, etc.

Penalties for Crimes in New Jersey

Offense Level

Incarceration Period

Maximum Fine

First Degree

10 to 20 years

Up to $200,000

Second Degree

5 to 10 years

Up to $150,000

Third Degree

3 to 5 years

Up to $15,000

Fourth Degree

18 months

Up to $10,000

Disorderly Person Offense

6 months

Up to $1,000

Federal Laws Relating to Prostitution

At the federal level in the U.S., the legislature enacted some provisions that establish minimum terms of imprisonment for certain offenses.  In § 2422(b), a minimum of a 10-year prison sentence is required for using the mail system or some form of interstate commerce to conduct the prostitution-related activity. This also applies to anyone encouraging, coercing, or transporting a minor to engage in prostitution.

New Jersey Conditional Dismissal Program (2C: 43-13.1)

Those who are convicted of prostitution offenses that have no prior criminal conviction may be eligible for the Conditional Discharge Program.  In order to enter the program, the offender must apply. There are certain reasons why someone would be deemed as ineligible including:

  • They participated in a conspiracy, gang-related, or other organized criminal activity
  • The individual acted to further a “criminal business or enterprise”
  • A government official that was responsible for breaching the public trust
  • Committed an act of domestic violence
  • They committed a crime that victimized a minor, an elderly individual, or someone with a significant physical or mental impairment
  • Were convicted of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • They were convicted of cruelty to an animal

Importance of Retaining Skilled Legal Representation

Being convicted of an offense relating to prostitution may result in significant penalties including incarceration, large fines, completing educational or counseling programs, and a driver's license suspension. In addition, these offenses have a stigma that often tarnishes your reputation in the community and you are left with a criminal record that is likely to hinder future employment opportunities.

New Jersey Defense Attorney for Sexually-Related Criminal Allegations

If you are alleged to have committed these types of offenses you can ill afford to face the charges with mediocre legal representation. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has spent years defending clients in criminal cases in the New Jersey court system. Contact the office today at (888) 535-3686 for a case evaluation.

​​​Contact The Lento Law Firm Today

When it comes to criminal defense cases, you need the right person in your corner. To learn more about how Mr. Lento can help you, call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686. or contact him online.

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