In New Jersey, prostitution is a crime that may carry with it consequences for the rest of an individual’s life. And for many crimes, minors face the same consequences an adult would face. But prostitutes under the age of 18 may be victims in a horrible situation rather than criminals. A new bill would treat them differently from their adult counterparts.
The New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved a bill last week that would automatically spare minors from criminal prosecution for prostitution. Under the bill, minors would be sent to treatment facilities upon arrest rather than forcing them to undergo the traditional legal system.
Under the current law, minors who are found engaging in prostitution are permitted a defense if they are victims of human trafficking. However, this defense is an affirmative defense, which means it must be asserted and proven by the defendant. Additionally, the law applies to both minors and adults. However, the new bill would help minors find treatment to prevent further prostitution, and would also permit a defense to minors simply by being a minor.
Prostitution in New Jersey is defined as sexual activity with another in exchange for something of economic value, or the offer or acceptance of an offer to engage in such activity.
The offense of engaging in prostitution with a minor is considered a third degree offense while the same offense with an adult is categorized as a fourth degree offense. However, no difference currently exists between the penalties of prostituting oneself as a minor and prostituting oneself as an adult. The offense is considered a disorderly persons offense.
This information is not intended to be legal advice.