Is Escorting Legal in the United States?

elegant woman
The legality of escorting varies from state to state.
Last modified: December 11, 2022

Are you tired of the mundane and looking for a bit of excitement in your life?

Have you ever considered hiring an escort?

But wait, is escorting even legal in the United States?

Well, that depends on who you ask and where you are! In some states, escorting is entirely legal and regulated, while in others, it is considered illegal and punishable by law.

So, if you’re considering hiring an escort, ensure you are in the right place at the right time.

The differences and similarities between Prostitution and Escorting

Prostitution is the exchange of sexual favors for money, valuable items, or sometimes even drugs.

Obtaining something of value is enough to categorize the action as prostitution, especially when penetration is involved.

Cathouse Brothel sign
Engaging in prostitution outside of licensed brothels is illegal in Nevada.

Escorts are often independent contractors that exchange their time for money, and thus escort services can be non-sexual.  

While agencies charge a fee and pocket part of the money, they also provide a safe and legal work environment. That is important because some clients may push for sexual interactions.

candlelit dinner
Escorts are often sought out for company and conversation.

In theory, the idea of escorts is that clients want to display the escort as a trophy or have a good conversation on a Friday evening, but it is not always the case. 

Is Escorting Legal in the United States?

First, prostitution is always illegal, regardless of where you are in the United States. There is no way around it. Paying for sex is a crime and violates human trafficking laws. 

woman in high heels
Nevada is the only state with legalized brothels.

Nevada is the only location in the United States where prostitution is legal. However, these services can only take place in regulated and licensed brothels.

On the other hand, escort services are legal in some places and illegal in others. Under federal law, escorts are not prostitutes, though they can fall within the category easily. 

In California, for example, escorting is legal but requires a license. In most states and cases, ladies need permission before engaging in these activities.

Obtaining these licenses requires an extensive background check by authorities to make sure that there is no criminal history connected to prostitution. 

Once the person has a license, escorting is generally legal, whether as independent contractors or workers in an agency.

Solicitation of Prostitution

Escorts cannot offer a sexual service or act, as it is illegal. That is why the mere solicitation of prostitution is a crime in most states. It is offering or agreeing to commit prostitution

bra
Escorts are prohibited from offering sexual services.

Though the name of the crime may change (for example, attempted prostitution), prosecutors will file criminal charges against the client trying to pay for sexual activity.

But what about the escort?

Can they face a criminal charge?

The answer is yes. Even if they do not go through with the offer, simply stating what sexual act they would be willing to perform is illegal. 

Prosecutors can use that evidence to file criminal charges for illegal prostitution, which can be punished severely.

Sometimes, even having a condom is evidence that there is a prostitution intent.

The California State Assembly changed these laws in July 2019, but it is worth noting that not every State holds the same view.

Legal penalties for prostitution

A prostitution charge is a misdemeanor, and such a criminal charge is punishable by:

Jail cell
A conviction for prostitution can lead to jail time.

Though the defendant (whether client or escort) may only pay a fine or serve a few months in prison, their criminal record will always display the incident. 

Moreover, this criminal background will probably prevent the escort from ever working in the industry again.

The consequences vary from State to State, so it is always best to read and comprehend the laws of each region.

In Arizona, for example, prostitution is a major crime.

Defendants who are facing charges risk facing years in prison.

Legal Defenses Against Prostitution Charges

What if an escort gets accused of illegal prostitution?  

US Courtroom
Escorts often face charges of illegal prostitution.

There is more than one way to fight a prostitution charge, though the defenses and laws change depending on the region. Common defenses include:

  1. There was no monetary exchange between the parties. If no money is involved, categorizing the crime as prostitution becomes challenging. However, the prosecution might find any valuable item (drugs, shelter, etc.) as evidence for prostitution.
  2. The parties did not agree to have sex. If there is no evidence that the parties agree to have sexual intercourse, the crime is not prostitution.
  3. Law enforcement employed unlawful tactics. Police officers cannot use coercion to apprehend an escort.
  4. The accusation is false. It is often easy to prove innocence when you are an innocent person facing charges.

Final Words: Is Escorting Legal in the United States?

Escorting involves exchanging time and company for money. This practice is legal in some states and illegal in others. The best way to ensure you do not commit a crime is to check the laws and regulations of each region.

Couple embracing
Simply discussing a sexual act with an escort can have ramifications.

While escorts and escort agencies are often legal, merely discussing what sexual act an escort is willing to perform is illegal.

 The best way to avoid criminal charges is to never engage in sexual activity in exchange for money, drugs, and other goods.

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