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  • Is Prostitution Legal in New Mexico?

    Posted on by JACK MKHITARIAN

    Except for Nevada, prostitution is illegal throughout the United States. Although prostitution laws vary from state to state, they are typically enacted for public health, morality, and ethical reasons.

    New Mexico is no different and has laws in place that prohibit prostitution. This guide offers a general overview of New Mexico’s prostitution laws, including information on related offenses, associated penalties, and available defenses.

    The Prohibition of Prostitution in New Mexico

    Despite ongoing discussions about decriminalization, including the passing of HB 56 in 2019 to ensure minors involved in prostitution cases aren’t charged with a crime, consensual adult sex work remains illegal in New Mexico.

    What is the Penalty for Purchasing Sex?

    Buying sex is equally illegal. Anyone who buys sex, known typically as a “john,” could face criminal charges. If you were to go to a brothel with the intention of buying sex, or pick up a prostitute on the street, you can be arrested and charged with a crime.

    The penalties for patronizing a prostitute include up to $500 in fines and six months in jail.

    New Mexico Prostitution Laws

    New Mexico has two specific statutes addressing prostitution. These laws precisely define activities and behaviors considered illegal in the context of prostitution.

    Prostitution Defined

    Under New Mexico’s Statute 30-9-2, prostitution is defined as engaging in or offering to engage in sexual acts for money or other compensation. It should be noted only adults selling sex can be convicted of prostitution. 

    Sexual Exploitation of Children by Prostitution or Child Prostitution 

    This statute, N.M. Stat. §30-6A-4, makes it illegal to engage in any prohibited sexual act with a child under the age of sixteen and knowingly receive any financial gain from such acts. Knowingly hiring or offering to hire a child under sixteen for such acts is also illegal. 

    Pandering and Profiting From Prostitution is Equally Illegal

    A person who panders or profits from prostitutes, such as the act of pimping, is committing a crime too. This charge is more serious than those of selling or buying sexual acts.

    Those promoting prostitution are charged with a felony, as opposed the misdemeanor charges faced by buyers or sellers of sex.  They could face up to 18 months in prison, and a fine of as much as $5,000.

    You can be accused of pimping if you:

    • own or manage a brothel;
    • rent property used for prostitution;
    • find patrons for a prostitute;
    • hire prostitutes or find individuals to work as prostitutes;
    • provide transportation for prostitutes so that they may work within the state;
    • cross state lines for the purpose of prostitution; or
    • receive an income from your acts in the prostitution chain.

    How Long Can You Go to Jail for Prostitution?

    First-time prostitution offenders face a petty misdemeanor charge of up to 6 months in prison and fines of up to $500. Subsequent prostitution offenses result in misdemeanors with penalties of up to 1 year in jail and fines of up to $1,000.

    Those who are found guilty of child prostitution under the age of 16 face a second-degree felony charge, which carries a potential sentence of up to 9 years in prison and a fine of up to $12,500. 

    Engaging in prohibited sexual acts involving a child under 13 and receiving profits from such activities is considered a first-degree felony. This offense carries severe penalties, including up to 18 years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $15,000.

    What Is Solicitation of Prostitution?

    Solicitation, also known as patronizing a prostitute—N.M. Stat. § 30-9-3—is defined as knowingly hiring or offering to hire a prostitute. It also involves going into or staying in a house of prostitution with the intent to engage in any sexual act. People who patronize a prostitute are called “Johns.”

    Penalties for Solicitation 

    Individuals soliciting sexual acts for compensation face legal consequences similar to those involved in prostitution. First-time offenders can be imprisoned for up to 6 months and fined up to $500. Repeat offenses result in misdemeanor charges, carrying penalties of up to 1 year in prison and fines up to $1,000. Other penalties can include mandatory counseling programs, community service, or imprisonment.

    Promoting Prostitution

    Pimping, also known as promoting prostitution, is defined under N.M. Stat. § 30-9-4 as knowingly engaging in activities such as establishing, owning, or maintaining a house of prostitution or coercing someone into becoming a prostitute. 

    Promoting prostitution is considered a fourth-degree felony and can result in up to 18 months in prison and fines of up to $5,000. Under New Mexico’s laws, a person who engages in two or more incidents of pimping within five years can also face charges of racketeering.

    Sex workers and “johns” cannot be convicted of promoting prostitution. 

    The Difference Between Prostitution and Sex Trafficking In New Mexico

    The key distinction between sex trafficking and prostitution in New Mexico is whether the individual is engaging in commercial sexual conduct voluntarily or involuntarily and whether they are an adult. When there is evidence of force, fraud, or coercion, or the individual involved is under the age of 18, the offense is classified as sex trafficking and has harsher penalties than prostitution.

    If you need help as a victim of sex trafficking or prostitution in New Mexico, there are various resources available. To find local agencies that provide emergency, transitional, or long-term support, contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline or the New Mexico Dream Center.

    Law Enforcement’s Approach to Prostitution in New Mexico

    Through various methods such as undercover operations, surveillance efforts, collaboration with other agencies, and support services for victims, law enforcement strives to combat the illegal sex trade while protecting potential victims from human trafficking or exploitation.

    Defenses Available Against Prostitution Charges

    When facing accusations of prostitution, there are legal strategies that can be used to challenge the charges and protect your rights. A knowledgeable prostitution defense attorney will know the potential defenses that may work for your case.

    • No Agreement for Commercial Sex. Being in a place where prostitution occurs isn’t a crime by itself. The prosecution must prove a specific and explicit agreement for the exchange of money or something of value for sexual acts.
    • Entrapment. Entrapment occurs when law enforcement influences or persuades someone to carry out a crime that they would not have done otherwise. It requires the presence of coercive tactics or undue pressure from law enforcement.
    • Lack of Evidence. The prosecution must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that you engaged in or consented to engage in prostitution or purchased sexual services. If the evidence is insufficient to prove your involvement in prostitution or purchasing sexual services, it might be disputed.

    These are only a few examples of possible defenses. The particulars of your case will determine the best defense strategy, and a skilled criminal defense lawyer can evaluate your circumstances and create a customized plan of action.


    Facing Prostitution or Solicitation Charges in New Mexico? We Can Help

    New Mexico Criminal Law Offices will stand by your side with a team of dedicated defense attorneys who understand the complexities of prostitution and solicitation of prostitution cases. Our attorneys have extensive experience defending individuals facing similar charges. We’ll leverage our expertise to create a personalized defense strategy unique to your case, aiming for the best possible outcome, including possibly getting your charges dismissed. 

    Silence is your right until you have legal representation. Contact us today for a confidential consultation.