Des Moines Prostitution Lawyer

Defending Against Prostitution Charges in Iowa

It's illegal in Iowa to sell your services as a partner in a sex act. Prostitution in Iowa is an aggravated misdemeanor. If the State accuses you of a crime, you need an Iowa prostitution lawyer.

“Our obligation is to define the liberty of all, not to mandate our own moral code.”

Justice Kennedy, Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003) (quoting Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 850 (1992)).

At Clark & Sears Law, our Iowa prostitution lawyer might be able to help you avoid conviction. If a judge or jury acquits you, then you could save thousands of dollars in fines and surcharges. Similarly, if a judge or prosecutor dismisses the charges, you could go home to your family. Going home is better than going to jail.

Have you been accused of prostitution? Call Clark & Sears Law today at (515) 200-2787 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with our prostitution attorney in Des Moines. 

Prostitution in Iowa

What is Prostitution?

According to Iowa Code 725.1, prostitution is selling your services as a partner in a sex act. Offering to sell your services as a sex partner is also prostitution.

What is a Sex Act?

  • Penetration of the penis into the vagina or anus.
  • Contact between the mouth and genitalia or by contact between the genitalia of one person and the genitalia or anus of another person.
  • Contact between the finger or hand of one person and the genitalia or anus of another person, except in the course of examination or treatment by a person licensed pursuant to chapters 148, 148C, 151, or 152.4.
  • Ejaculation onto the person of another.
  • By use of artificial sexual organs or substitutes, therefor in contact with the genitalia or anus.

Is Prostitution a Misdemeanor in Iowa?

Prostitution is an aggravated misdemeanor. That means that Iowa's legislators, in their infinite and worldly wisdom, determined that your decision to condition consent on financial gratification means you're more dangerous than a drunk driver. (First offense drunk driving is a serious misdemeanor, which is a smaller offense than an aggravated misdemeanor is.) If you plead guilty to prostitution, a judge could sentence you to up to two years in prison. You will pay fines of $855 - $8,540 (plus surcharges.)

Defenses Against Prostitution Charges

Some possible prostitution defenses include:

Due Process / Right to Privacy

Liberty protects the person from unwarranted government intrusions into a dwelling or other private places. In our tradition, the State is not omnipresent in the home. And there are other spheres of our lives and existence outside the home where the State should not be a dominant presence. Freedom extends beyond spatial bounds. Liberty presumes an autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression, and certain intimate conduct.

Justice Kennedy, Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558, 562 (2003).

Did you know that "homosexual conduct" used to be illegal in Texas?

In 2003, in the US Supreme Court case Lawrence v. Texas, the United States Supreme Court found that the Due Process clause included a "fundamental right" to privacy. The Court "counsel against attempts by the State, or a court, to define the meaning of the relationship or to set its boundaries absent injury to a person or abuse of an institution the law protects."

While the Lawrence Court explicitly acknowledged that Lawrence did "not involve public conduct or prostitution," there is no apparent reason why the Lawrence Court's reasoning would not extend to embrace prostitution. As Justice Scalia noticed, white-knuckling some pearls, the Lawrence decision represented "a massive disruption of the current social order" :

"State laws against prostitution are called into question by today's decision; the Court makes no effort to cabin the scope of its decision to exclude them from its holding."

Justice Scalia, Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558, 590 (2003).

Equal Protection

In Lawrence, Justice O'Connor declined to join in the majority opinion but nonetheless stated that she felt Texas's sodomy law was an equal protection violation. As she noted, "some objectives, such as 'a bare … desire to harm a politically unpopular group,' are not legitimate state interests." Lawrence at 580 (quoting U. S. Dep't of Agric. v. Moreno, 413 U.S. 528, 534 (1973)).

The Supreme Court has found it unconstitutional to discriminate against hippies (U. S. Dep't of Agric. v. Moreno, 413 U.S. 528 (1973)), to prohibit distributing contraceptives to unmarried people (Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. 438 (1972), and to require a home for mentally disabled persons to obtain a special use permit that wasn't required of other residences, such as frat houses and apartments (City of Cleburne, Tex. v. Cleburne Living Ctr., 473 U.S. 432 (1985)).

All of these groups -- hippies, sexually-active unmarried people, mentally disabled people, and prostitutes -- are groups that the "mainstream" loves to revile. Iowa's prostitution law arises from a bare desire to harm a politically unpopular group -- prostitutes (and their clients.)

"Moral disapproval of a group cannot be a legitimate governmental interest under the Equal Protection Clause because legal classifications must not be 'drawn for the purpose of disadvantaging the group burdened by the law.' " Lawrence at 583 (quoting Romer v. Evans, 517 U.S. 620 (1996)).

Iowa's gross criminalization of prostitution is directed at harming a politically unpopular group. If Iowa courts are willing to apply the "rational basis with bite" scrutiny that equal protection provisions demand, there's reason to hope that Iowa's unjust prostitution prohibition might finally end. I can't make any promises about outcomes, but if you'd like to fight your prostitution charges on all available constitutional law grounds, it's an issue I'd be happy to argue at some length.

First Amendment

Sex between competent, consenting adults isn't illegal. Why should payment change that?

To the extent that predicting consent on compensation is expressive conduct constituting political speech, I think there's an argument to be made that prohibiting prostitution infringes on First Amendment safeguards, at least in some situations.

Mistaken Identity

Can they prove it was you? If you were wrongly identified as being involved in prostitution, you might be able to argue that you have been mistaken for someone else.


Were you somewhere else? If you were testifying in front of Congress at the time of the alleged offense, your prostitution lawyer will tell the jury about your alibi.

Fourth Amendment Search and Seizure

The Fourth Amendment, with some specific and well-delineated exceptions, guards you from warrantless searches and seizures.

It's important to mention that every case is unique, and the specific defenses that could be available to you will be dependent on the facts and circumstances surrounding your case. Our skilled Des Moines prostitution defense attorney at Clark & Sears will evaluate your case and help you build a strong legal defense.

Iowa Charges Related to Prostitution

  • Pimping- Finding clients for prostitutes, taking prostitutes' earnings, or furnishing a place to be used for prostitution is a class D felony. If the prostitute involved is under 18, pimping is a class C felony. Iowa Code 725.2.
  • Pandering- Persuading someone to become a prostitute or to return to prostitution is a class D felony. So is keeping, maintaining, or profiting from a place for prostitution. Iowa Code 725.3. If the person is underage, pandering is a class C felony.
  • Rental or Sale of Hardcore Pornography- …I know, right? The first time you knowingly rent, sell, or offer to rent or sell "hard-core pornography," it's an aggravated misdemeanor. Second or subsequent violations are class D felonies. Iowa Code 728.4.

There's a lot to unpack with this code section. Very succinctly, though, the First Amendment covers most "pornographic" material. I'd argue that we're living in a time where the majority of "pornographic works," when evaluated "as a whole," have serious political or artistic value or are otherwise within the scope of First Amendment jurisprudence.

Contact Our Prostitution Attorney in Des Moines Today

If you are facing accusations of prostitution in Iowa, please don't hesitate to contact our team at Clark & Sears Law. We understand that facing a charge of this nature can be a stressful and overwhelming experience, and that's why we are here to help you navigate the legal system and ensure that your rights are protected. Our Des Moines prostitution attorneys have a profound understanding of the laws and regulations related to prostitution in Iowa. We are dedicated to protecting your rights and pursuing the best outcome possible for your case. You can count on us for the legal support you need during this difficult time.

Contact Clark & Sears Law today to get started on your defense with our Des Moines prostitution lawyer.

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