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HB 377 - Patronizing a prostitute

HB 377 - Patronizing a prostitute

Phil Haunschild
February 1, 2018

Bill description: This bill would make it a felony for a first-time offense of patronizing a prostitute.

Rating: -1

Does it directly or indirectly create or increase penalties for victimless crimes or non-restorative penalties for non- violent crimes? Conversely, does it eliminate or decrease penalties for victimless crimes or non-restorative penalties for non-violent crimes? 

HB 377 would make it a felony offense to patronize a prostitute. Currently, it is a misdemeanor for the first two offenses. Only in subsequent offenses does the act constitute a felony.

Some purport that HB 377 is meant to combat human trafficking for the purposes of prostitution in Idaho, however, this is not the focus of the change. The crime of patronizing a prostitute is solely limited to paying for sexual services or entering into a place of prostitution with the intent to do so.

Human trafficking is undoubtedly a crime with victims. Idaho has specific laws that target those who traffick persons for the purpose of prostitution across state lines (I.C. § 18-5601). Similarly, Idaho Code has an entire chapter dedicated to combating human trafficking of all forms (I.C. §18-86).

HB 377 does not touch on these other crimes. Instead, it would increase the penalty for individuals who patronize a prostitute from a misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, to a felony with a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $50,000 fine. This 10-fold increase in jail time and 50-fold increase in fines would impose stiff penalties on first-time offenders even if the crime is not tied to human trafficking.


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