Solicitation and Prostitution Defense Lawyers in Chicago

In Illinois, it is illegal to engage in the prostitution trade at any level. The laws are written in order to punish offenders in proportion to their role in the trade and the severity of their conduct. In case you have lived a sheltered existence and you are unaware of the practice, prostitution is the performance of sex acts in exchange for payment or remuneration. Prostitutes can be found plying their trade out on the streets, out of hotels or motels, out of residences, and on-line through social media pages (e.g. Craig’s List, Tinder, etc.). Generally, there are those who perform the sexual acts (Prostitutes), those who promote sex acts to be performed by another (“Pimps”), and those who avail themselves of their services (“Johns”). Illinois law addresses each of these individuals in the Criminal Code and has set offense levels and penalties to effectively punish those involved.

Table Of Contents

    What is Prostitution?

    Any person who knowingly performs or who offers/agrees to perform any act of sexual penetration as defined by law in exchange for anything of value, for the purpose of giving another person sexual arousal or sexual gratification commits an act of prostitution. Prostitution is a Class A misdemeanor in Chicago and other cities in Illinois, punishable by a period of up to 364 days incarceration in a county facility, a fine of up to $2,500.00 (plus court costs, fees, and assessments) or both. In recognition of the reality that many prostitutes engage in the trade unwillingly, having been forced through the use of violence, or threats of violence, it is an affirmative defense if one is a victim of involuntary servitude or human trafficking at the time of the violation. As an affirmative defense, you must be able to point to evidence at trial, either from the State’s case or through your own evidence, that this is so. It then becomes the State’s burden to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt your claimed defense at the trial. Also, in recognition that juveniles deserve special protection by law, if it is determined that a prostitute is under the age of 18, they do not pursue criminal charges. Instead, they are taken into temporary protective custody and brought into Juvenile Court to find an appropriate way to remove the child from the situation.

    What is “Pimping”?

    “Pimping” is the act of promoting sexual favors to be performed by other people in exchange for payment. Maybe you are familiar with how Pimps have been portrayed in TV and Movies, as these colorful characters who always have their “ear to the ground” and are always willing to share their information with detectives in order for the detectives and other police to leave them alone to practice their trade. A good example of this is the character “Huggy Bear” from the 1970 TV show “Barretta.” Make no mistake, pimping is not a glamorous profession and pimps generally are not well-regarded by law enforcement and it further seems highly unlikely that they would be sharing the “word on the street” with police. -- And unlike the characters portrayed by Henry Winkler and Michael Keaton in the movie “Night Shift”, there are no benevolent pimps that have health care plans, a 401K plan, paid sick leave, profit sharing, and all the other nonsense they gave to their prostitutes.

    There is a reason that law enforcement has focused on trying to shut down the prostitution trade: pimps use power, intimidation, and violence to keep their prostitutes in line; they do not “profit share”; they do not give them benefits of any kind. Instead, prostitutes are forced to maintain their efforts in the sex trade or they are beaten, starved, and otherwise treated like trash. Accordingly, there are statutes on the books that address the crimes that involve pimping, referred to as “promoting prostitution,” with more severe penalties attached to them. The offense of Promoting Prostitution, under the Illinois Criminal Code, penalizes persons for advancing prostitution by compelling a person to become a prostitute.

    A first offense is a Class 4 felony, punishable by a prison term of 1-3 years, fines up to $25,000.00, and potential civil forfeiture of any vehicles, real or personal property that are instrumentalities of the crime. If it occurs within 1000 feet of any real property comprising a school, then it is a Class 3 felony, which is punishable by 2 to 5 years in prison and even bigger fines.  It is also a Class 3 felony if the offender has any prior prostitution-related convictions as enumerated in the statute. A person can also commit the offense by creating, or offering to create, a situation where someone may practice prostitution, without compulsion. This is a Class 4 felony regardless of where it occurred, or if the offender had prior offenses. Finally, it can be a violation to advance prostitution by any other means, even as a patron, and it is a Class 4 felony which is increased to a Class 3 felony if committed within 1000 feet of school property, or if a second or subsequent offense. A prostitute cannot be convicted of this offense for promoting their own personal prostitution services though, such as taking out ads on social media.

    If the advancement of prostitution involves juvenile prostitutes or persons with profound intellectual disabilities, then the penalties become much more severe. If the juvenile is over the age of 13 but under the age of 18, or if the prostitute suffers from an intellectual disability, then the advancement of or profiting from (note: profiting only applies if the juvenile was under 13 years of age) said prostitution is a Class 1 felony which carries a sentence of 4 to 15 years in prison, $100,000.00 fines and so on. If it is within 1000 feet of a school, then it becomes a Class X felony with no probation possible and the prison term is a mandatory minimum 6 to a maximum of 30 years. Second or subsequent offenses are Class X felonies. If the offender has confined the child through the use of force causing great bodily harm, deception or giving them alcohol or other illicit substances in order to advance prostitution, it is a Class X felony that carries a potential extended sentence of 6 to 60 years. Any real property kept for promoting juvenile prostitution is subject to immediate forfeiture upon a conviction. It is an affirmative defense that one reasonably believed the prostitute was 18 years of age or older or was not profoundly disabled intellectually.

    What about the “Johns”?

    Patronizing a Prostitute involves exactly what it sounds like. It is not merely the solicitation of an act of prostitution. Any person who knowingly does any of the following acts with someone not their spouse in exchange for payment or remuneration (often referred to as a “John”) commits the crime:

    • An act of sexual penetration, which, as defined by law, involves even the slightest touching of one’s mouth, hands or sexual organs with the sexual organs or anus of another;
    • Goes into, or remains within, a “place of prostitution” to engage in an act of sexual penetration;
    • Any touching or fondling with a prostitute, of the sex organs of one person by another person for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification.

    A violation of the above is a Class 4 felony, unless it is a second or subsequent offense as defined in the statute, or if it occurs within 1000 feet of a school, in which case it is a Class 3 felony.

    Of course, as one would expect, patronizing a juvenile prostitute is much more serious. It is an affirmative defense that one reasonably believed that the prostitute in question was either over the age of 18 or not possessed of a profound intellectual disability. However, if one knowingly performs an act of sexual penetration with a juvenile or an adult with a profound intellectual disability, or if one merely engages in the touching or fondling of sexual organs of said juvenile prostitute/person with an intellectual disability, it is a Class 3 felony. If done within 1000 feet of a school or if the offense is a second or subsequent offense, it is a Class 2 felony.

    Clearly, these laws are designed to shut down the prostitution trade by punishing most severely those found to be responsible for the trade being plied, followed by the individuals that avail themselves of said trade, and punishing least severely those that are now being perceived as victims themselves, the prostitutes. The laws are especially designed to deter the practice of juvenile prostitution by punishing the pimps and the johns more severely and to attempt to remove the juvenile victims from the trade entirely.

    Defenses and Undercover Stings

    In our practice, we often represent individuals charged with solicitation of a prostitute. Sometimes, they approach someone they think is a prostitute on the street, sometimes they reply to a social media ad and make an agreement to meet at a motel or somewhere else that is private in order to carry out an act in violation of law. Of course, they come to see us, because it turned out to be a “sting” operation: the “prostitute” was an undercover officer. The premises where they met was wired with video and sound recording. They were unceremoniously placed under arrest, handcuffed, and their automobiles were seized and held for impoundment and administrative penalties. Sometimes they admit their conduct, but often they claim innocence: “I thought she was lost and needed help”, “I was lost and asked her for directions” and so on. Even before the advent of body cameras, and sound recording capabilities, these defenses rarely if ever worked. So, here’s a good rule to live by: every prostitute on the street is likely to be an undercover officer and every ad for sexual services on the internet is likely a law enforcement spider’s web. The best way to avoid being arrested, humiliated publicly (they routinely publish the names and arrest photos of every “John” they arrest) and prosecuted as a criminal is to not take the bait in the first place.

    Contact a Chicago Prostitution / Solicitation Attorney at Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC

    Crimes involving solicitation and prostitution may be misdemeanors, local ordinances, or felony charges depending upon the circumstances and the prior criminal record of the defendant. But in any event, charges such as these are serious and can have life-long effects not only on your record, but upon your personal and professional life as well. The Chicago criminal defense lawyers of Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC are part of an experienced, knowledgeable and aggressive team of Chicago sex crime attorneys that can help you through this difficult time. Call today at (312) 644-0444 for free information and to learn how we can be of assistance.

    Written by Mitchell S. Sexner Last Updated : December 21, 2023