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Prostitution — solicitation of payment for sexual acts — is a serious crime in the State of South Carolina. What’s even more severe, however, is when these activities involve an underage person.

With that in mind, everyone is capable of making a mistake or being in the wrong place at the wrong time. What seems like a night of illicit fun can turn very bad for you if and when you realize that the person you’re paying is underage. If this happens to you, it’s best to know what you’re up against in the South Carolina criminal justice system. 

In this article, you will learn:

  • The two types of criminal charges involved with prostitution of minors in SC
  • The penalties levied against those who are charged and convicted of one of these offenses

What Prostitution of a Minor in SC Isn’t

While they may be similar in some cases, in South Carolina, there is a clear separation between prostitution of a minor and sexual exploitation of a minor (child pornography).

The three degrees of criminal charges surrounding child pornography in South Carolina have to do with the possession, trafficking, or creation of child pornography — pictures, videos, or some other depictions of a real, underage person engaging in sexual activity.

Prostitution, on the other hand, involves facilitating, sponsoring, representing, or participating in sexual activity with an underage person in exchange for payment. While many of the same aspects can apply to both offenses (material gain for a transaction, for example, and the fact that both involve underage subjects ,) the differences between the two are clear. One notable difference is the severity of the criminal penalties for a conviction. Prostitution of a minor in South Carolina generally carries more severe penalties than sexual exploitation. 

Promoting Prostitution of a Minor

The first (and more severe) of the two crimes associated with prostitution of minors is covered under SC Code Section 16-15-415. There are two requirements to be eligible for this charge in South Carolina:

  • The accused can’t be a minor themselves
  • The accused must have knowledge of the situation — defined as the understanding or reasonable expectation to know what they’re doing

What Is Promoting Prostitution of a Minor?

Promotion of underage prostitution covers any situation where the accused is alleged to have facilitated the act in any way. Facilitating basically means helping the crime occur.

This can be as simple as encouraging a minor to take part in prostitution or as involved as representing them in the transaction. For example, many prostitutes are represented by agents who profit from the activity. In other states’ laws, this may be classified as “pimping” or “pandering.”

Where the “knowledge” requirement comes into play can be subjective at times, but is written into the law in order to protect people from being roped into illegal activity without knowingly participating. For example, a parent who encourages their child to get a job won’t be convicted of promoting prostitution, even if the child ends up becoming a prostitute. The same goes for someone who is tricked or coerced into supporting any aspect of an underage sex worker’s (or his or her agent’s) operations.

The “Mistake of Age”

A common defense in crimes involving minors is that the person who perpetrated the illegal act “didn’t know” the actual age of the party. This may be a valid excuse in a select few cases, but not when it comes to promoting (or participating in) the prostitution of a minor.

Penalties for Promoting Prostitution of Minors in South Carolina

This charge is a felony, regardless of the accused’s past record or the extenuating circumstances in a given case. The minimum sentence for a conviction is three years — a person found guilty of promoting prostitution is not able to have that amount of time suspended. They are also not eligible for parole until at least three years has been served. They may be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.

Unlike some sentences that can run concurrently, multiple charges of promoting prostitution of a minor have to run consecutively, meaning that the sentence for a second count can only begin when the sentence for the first is complete, and so on. You can only serve one sentence at a time.

Participating in Prostitution of a Minor

Covered by SC Code Section 16-15-425, participation in child prostitution is typically treated as less severe than promotion of child prostitution.

  • The only requirement is that the accused cannot be underage themselves.

What Is Participating in Prostitution of a Minor in SC?

Participating in the Prostitution of a Minor means taking part in a transaction with an underage person in which money or items of value are exchanged for sexual activity.

This charge doesn’t have to have any confirmation of a sexual act or the exchange of funds to be applied. If a person is found to have even requested such a transaction, the charges will apply.

Anytime a person shows intent to pay a minor (or a minor’s agent) for sexual activity with the minor in question — whether the exchange was followed through with or not — it can be considered participating in prostitution.

Just like with promotion, the “mistake of age” is not a valid defense to this charge.

Penalties for Participating in Prostitution of a Minor

Like promotion, participation in underage prostitution is automatically considered to be a felony. The minimum sentence for a conviction is two years, and again, this minimum cannot be suspended and is the minimum time served before parole can be a possibility. Also like in participation, sentences run consecutively — someone convicted of this crime is unable to serve time for two counts simultaneously.

Why It’s Important to Have Experienced Defense Attorneys

At the Kent Collins Law Firm, we believe that everyone deserves a second chance. That’s why it’s important to make sure a single mistake doesn’t ruin your life. We have experience in high-stakes court cases, including those involving prostitution of minors in SC. We have the expertise to represent your best interests at the highest level.

Ready to get started with a case review? Contact the Kent Collins Law Firm to learn more.

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