Compelling Prostitution: New York Penal Law § 230.33

In New York, prosecutors take very seriously cases which involve a person in a position of power forcing another individual to do something unsavory. The degree of severity is naturally based on the actions which are forced on the reluctant party. Offenses involving crimes likely to generate some societal outrage, such as those involving forced sexual conduct, are considered extremely serious.

An individual can be convicted of Compelling Prostitution when the prosecutor can show that the defendant is 18 years old or older, and he or she forces a person who is under 18 to engage in Prostitution through force or some sort of intimidation. It does not matter if the defendant is unaware that the prostitute is under 18; the prosecutor does not need to demonstrate knowledge of age.

Courts have broadly interpreted the word "force," so that it includes both physical menace as well as mental coercion. It seems obvious that actions such as pointing a gun or brandishing a knife at someone and telling the victim what to do would fall under this statute, but a person can also be convicted of this crime if he employs blackmail, intense bullying, or any actions where the Courts determine that the defendant's actions were intended to erode the free will of the prostitute, and she had no choice but to comply.

Examples of this offense can vary greatly. When society at large considers the crime of Compelling Prostitution, they tend to think of a teenager being abducted, physically abused, and forced to work as a prostitute under the threat of physical violence under the watchful eye of their captor. While that does fit the elements of the statute, that scenario is not always the case: a wide variety of situations can result in a person being charged under this statute. A person who gets their hands on, or takes, some racy or embarrassing photos of an underage person and then blackmails that person into an act of prostitution can be convicted as well. A person can also be charged with this crime if he or she engages in extreme forms of bullying, calculated to erode the will of the other person, and break that person down until they will agree to do things they normally never would in order to gain approval.

Due to the underlying nature of this crime, the penalties can be severe. Compelling Prostitution is a class B felony, punishable by up to 25 years in prison. Courts tend to deal harshly with these types of force and intimidation cases, but even if the prison sentence imposed is not the maximum, the collateral consequences of a sex offense conviction are dire. If found guilty, the individual will have to register as a sex offender, which carriers certain restrictions, obligations, and the obvious stigma for life.

Because the punishment associated with this crime is so severe, knowing how to best defend against charges of Compelling Prostitution is vital. Unlike other types of cases, a prosecutor cannot successfully take a Compelling Prostitution case to trial with only NYPD witnesses. To prove the charges, the prostitute will have to take the stand and testify. The single most important aspect of the defense is to destroy the credibility of this witness. Demonstrating that the individual testifying against the defendant is lying, and forming a theory supporting that assertion, is paramount. There are any number of reasons a witness may be lying in this situation, but the most common reasons are that the individual was arrested for prostitution and is looking to cut a deal and lower their criminal exposure by shifting the blame, or even seeking revenge for some past altercation. Regardless of the reason, discrediting this key witness can be the difference between a lengthy jail sentence and walking out of the front of the courthouse after trial.

If you, or a loved one, has been arrested for Compelling Prostitution, call the experienced Prostitution attorneys at the Law Offices of Jeffrey Lichtman immediately. We will investigate and examine every angle of your defense and determine the best way to proceed in order to achieve the best outcome possible for your case. Call us today at (212) 581-1001 for a free case evaluation.