Several police departments in Minnesota are currently using large prostitution sting operations, ranging from southern Minnesota to the metro area. These sting operations are often accomplished by law enforcement using ads on craigslist.com and backpage.com, and they have resulted in several people being charged with prostitution accross the state. While the “basics” of prostitution in Minnesota are complex, understanding how prostitution be charged by law enforcement and what the penalties are can help clear up confusion.

Prostitution is a serious and complex crime in Minnesota. Here’s why: (1) it can be charged at the federal level as well as the state level; (2) charges go from misdemeanor to gross misdemeanor to the felony level; and (3) people may be charged when they have not actually engaged in a sexual act, but have instead only made an offer or an agreement. This post will cover Minnesota state level charges as well as the factors that determine whether they are charged as misdemeanors, gross misdemeanors, or felonies.

Minnesota Statute 609.324 –which is entitled “PATRONS; PROSTITUTES; HOUSING INDIVIDUALS ENGAGED IN PROSTITUTION; PENALTIES”–allows law enforcement to charge a person for offering, engaging, or agreeing to engage in prostitution (and also for aiding others who are engaging prostitution).

Misdemeanor prostitution (the least severe) can be charged when: (1) a person engages in prostitution with an individual who is 18 years or older; or (2) a person is hired, offers to be hired, or agrees to be hired by an individual who is 18 or older. These misdemeanor charges can be charged as gross misdemeanors when: (1) an individual who has a previous conviction for prostitution within the past two years; (2) an individual engages in prostitution while acting as a patron; or (3) an individual offers or agrees to engage in prostitution in a public place.

At the most severe level, prostitution charges can reach the felony level. This can occur when a person: (1) engages in prostitution with an individual under the age of 18 years; or (2) hires or offers or agrees to hire an individual under the age of 18 years to engage in sexual penetration or sexual contact. The penalties for prostitution involving an individual under the age of 13 and 16 are respectively harsher and can lead to penalties of up to 10 or 20 years in prison and/or a fine of $20,000 or $40,000 dollars.

Please also take notice that prostitution-related charges can be brought when a person houses or transports people engaged in prostitution.

If you are being investigated for prostitution, or you have been charged with prostitution, at any level, contact a criminal defense attorney immediately to help protect your rights and learn your options.