Promoting Intimacy and Positive, Healthy, Consenting Adult Sexuality

Prostitution and Federal Criminal Law

It is my understanding the Feds rarely get involved in prostitution cases but the question has come up a lot. There seems to be only a few situations where the Feds could act against agencies, companions, TER etc.

1) Mann Act - Only applies if someone PAYS the travel costs like an airline ticket and crosses state lines for the purpose of prostitution. It is very rare for the Feds to go after folks under the Mann Act and usually no one is paying directly for transportation.

The law was originally referred to as the "White-Slave Traffic Act of 1910" and prohibited white slavery. It also banned the interstate transport of females for “immoral purposes.” Its primary stated intent was to address prostitution, immorality, and human trafficking. The act is better known as the Mann Act, after James Robert Mann, an American lawmaker.

2) Travel Act - The Federal racketeering laws contain a provision, much loved by prosecutors, commonly known as the "Travel Act" — and more formally as "Interstate and foreign travel or transportation in aid of racketeering enterprises." The Travel Act makes it a crime to travel in interstate commerce with the intention of, among other things, promoting, conducting or distributing the proceeds of unlawful activity (expressly including prostitution), if, after the travel, such an illegal activity is performed. It would, for example, be a felony violation of the Travel Act (punishable by up to five years' imprisonment), to travel across state lines (or aid and abet a prostitute in doing so) for the purpose of promoting or carrying on the business of a prostitution ring; it would, similarly (and separately), violate the Travel Act to send the prostitute back across state lines to distribute the proceeds of the prostitution.

3) Money Laundering- Under federal law, banks are required to file currency transaction reports (CTR's) for cash transactions over $10K. The idea is to smoke out organized crime and/or narcotics enterprises — innocent people in legitimate cash businesses have no concern about filing CTRs. But if you are generating cash by illegal transactions, you have a motive to evade the CTR requirements. What such people will frequently do is, say, break a single $30K transaction into four deposits or withdrawals of less than $10K—the transaction is thus "structured" to avoid triggering the CTR requirement. If that is done with criminal intent, it's a felony under the money laundering laws.

4) You have committed a felony violation, punishable by up to 20 years in jail, if you have money that is the proceeds of some form of illegal activity (including prostitution), and you conduct a financial transaction with those proceeds (a) with the intention of promoting certain crimes (including prostitution), or (b) with the knowledge that the transaction is designed to conceal how the proceeds were generated. If I understand the allegations correctly, Spitzer not only obtained and paid in cash in order not to leave a paper trail, but paid extra cash in order to set up a credit with the prostitution ring for future use. That raises the possibility of money laundering under both the promotion and concealment theories.

Source of above info: National Review article by Andy McCarthy regarding Spitzer's legal issues

Travel Act Case
There is an interesting old case from the U.S. Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit that talks a great deal about the Travel Act related to prostitution ads in a Kentucky newspaper that has distribution across state lines. This case does show how the Travel Act could apply against both DD and TER. However in the case in question there as no intent to solicit outside the state and just because some editions of the newspaper were distributed outside of Kentucky. The lower Court conviction was reversed. But the case is interesting in their arguments of how the Travel Act could apply. The ruling is at

But a Massage Studio lost its appeal in a more recent September 2008 Ninth U.S. District Court of Appeals case. Here records showed that the Montana massage parlor that was convicted of prostitution in Montana had records that included clients from at least five other states. The Court upheld the Travel Act violations while saying, "While there may be valid questions as to the wisdom of drafting such a broad statute or applying it in the context of local prostitution businesses like the ones in this case, these are policy issues within the discretion of the other branches.” Source:

Travel Act Concerns - Often used against gambling but also specifically prostitution is included
A conviction under the Travel Act necessitates a violation of either a state or federal law. However, the government need not prove that the defendant specifically intended to violate state or federal law.

The courts have determined that the use of the mail, telephone or telegraph, newspapers, credit cards and tickertapes is sufficient to establish that a defendant "used a facility of interstate commerce" to further an unlawful activity in violation of the Travel Act. It is important to note that the Travel Act "refers to state law only to identify the defendant's unlawful activity, the federal crime to be proved in § 1952 is use of the interstate facilities in furtherance of the unlawful activity, not the violation of state law; therefore § 1952 does not require that the state crime ever be completed." (These are about old cases but of course today by the same argument e-mails would seem to be included) Source:

Dave notes - The above is based on web research and I am not a lawyer and am not providing legal advice just the results of research. If you have legal questions you should consult a competent lawyer.

The War on Sex Continues strong with little opposition.
Sadly there are constitutional issue regarding the prostitution law especially with the Lawrence vs Texas Supreme Court case. There is overwhelming evidence that the public does not want to waste police and court resources going after in private consenting adult sexwork, legal in almost all the rest of the world. Sadly no one has organized any meaningful counter attack for our sexual rights.

SWOP hurts the cause and will continue to fail since it supports public nuisance street hookers, which unlike private sexwork is not legal in most of the world and the public will not tolerate it.

But there is broad public support for voter referendums etc to change the laws regarding in private consenting adult sexwork. But unlike the great organizations of the gay and lesbian communities fighting for and often winning their rights, there is no such group for private sexwork. The gays came out of their closet but not those that support private consenting adults rights to our heterosexual sexual freedoms.


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