Scranton, Pa

Woman Facing Prostitution Charges After Arrest at Altoona Motel

Posted: March 3, 2023

On February 20, 2023, Logan Township Police arrested a 25-year-old woman for prostitution and drug-related charges at the Rodeway Inn in Altoona, Pennsylvania.

When police arrived at the motel they apprehended the woman, who they claim was using her sister’s name as her own. Upon searching the room, officers claimed that they found drugs and drug paraphernalia. After placing the woman under arrest, police claim they found a blue baggie, allegedly containing cocaine. According to reports, the woman allegedly explained that she engaged in commercial sex because she struggled financially. The woman is facing charges of providing false identification to a law enforcement officer, one count of prostitution, intentional possession of a controlled substance by a person not registered, possession of marijuana, and use/possession of drug paraphernalia. Although she has not been convicted of any offense, the woman was remanded to the Blair County Prison, given she was unable to post 10% of the $25,000 bail set by Magisterial District Judge Paula M. Aigner.

The CSE Institute is disappointed in WTAJ News and the Altoona Mirror for choosing to publicize both the first and last name of the woman in this case as well as her photo. In publishing her name and photo, both news outlets promote the notion that prostituted persons are criminals, rather than exploited persons.

Additionally, the CSE Institute is frustrated and concerned by the media’s utter lack of awareness surrounding the prostitution laws of Pennsylvania. In fact, WTAJ News claimed that the woman was, “facing charges of promoting prostitution.” Similarly, the Altoona Mirror maintained that the woman was facing “misdemeanor charges of . . . promoting prostitution.” Promoting prostitution is defined in the Pennsylvania Crimes Code at Section 5902(b). In actuality, the women is facing charges of Prostitution: a separate section defined in the Pennsylvania Crimes Code at Section 5902(a)(1).

The two differ in that promoting prostitution, a felony in the third degree, requires owning, controlling, managing, supervising, or otherwise keeping, alone or in association with others, a house of prostitution or a prostitution business. Conversely, prostitution, a misdemeanor in the third degree, requires being an inmate of a house of prostitution or otherwise engaging in sexual activity as a business. These are two distinctly separate portions of the crimes code with different punishments if convicted under the law.

Regardless, criminalization of persons in prostitution only enhances the traumatization and stigmatization. A single criminal conviction can serve as a massive barrier to stable employment, housing opportunities, immigration opportunities, federal student loans, and more. In this case, the woman’s criminal history suggests a life of financial vulnerability. After perpetual cycles of criminalization and subsequent victimization, the woman was ultimately faced with countless collateral legal consequences.

Formally charging victims with prostitution does nothing to target sex traffickers or buyers. It is traffickers and buyers who perpetuate sexual exploitation and keep the commercial sex trade alive. At the CSE Institute, we firmly support the Equality Model. The Equality Model consists of four key elements: (1) decriminalization of the prostituted person, (2) criminalization of sex buyers and facilitators with a commitment to treating buying sex as a serious crime, (3) a public education campaign about the inherent harms of prostitution, and (4) funded, robust, holistic exit services for victims of commercial sexual exploitation.  The Equality Model directly targets the demand for buying sex by criminalizing sex buyers and traffickers, while decriminalizing the people who are being bought and sold for commercial sex.

Accordingly, we encourage law enforcement officers and district attorney’s offices to target the demand for commercial sex by investigating and arresting sex buyers in addition to sex traffickers. However, to fully combat commercial sexual exploitation in Pennsylvania, authorities must also recognize the victimization of those exploited in the commercial sex trade.  The “choice” to commit the “crime” of selling sex is often made from a place of economic insecurity, addiction, and other vulnerable circumstances. We believe that a “choice” made in an effort to survive is not a choice at all. Conversely, a sex buyer always has the choice whether or not to purchase sex.

The CSE Institute will provide updates on this case as they become available.

All views expressed herein are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law or of Villanova University.

Category: News

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