Charleston Looking to Change Prostitution Punishment

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Take a look at the Charleston city code and the maximum first-time punishment for prostitution is up to $500 in fines and 30 days in jail.

However, look at convictions and you'll likely only see one of those.

"For 25 years he was the municipal judge and he never put anyone in jail for the first offense," said Mayor Danny Jones of a friend.

It's for that reason why Jones is proposing a change to the law for first-time offenses.

"We don't want for there to be jail time in that offense," Jones said.

For the reasoning why, you'll have to go back in time to 1972. That's when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Argersinger v. Hamlin that anyone facing jail time must have the option to a public defender. That attorney bill gets paid from taxpayer dollars.

In addition, that possibility for jail time also incurs the option for a jury trial.

According to Jones, wiping out the time behind bars would expedite the entire process.

However, he says the reasoning stems deeper than just a few bucks.

"Jail doesn't really do much for them except keep them off the streets for the number of days they're in jail," Jones said of first-offenders.

Jones says second and third-time violators are the real stem of the prostitution problem, and they will still be punished to the full extent of the law.

The issue was tabled at Monday night's city council meeting. It will be brought back up at a later date.


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