Maine governor signs bill partially decriminalizing prostitution News
Carol Boldt, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Maine governor signs bill partially decriminalizing prostitution

Maine Governor Janet Mills signed a bill into law on Monday that partially decriminalizes prostitution in the state.

Legislative Document (LD) 1435, called An Act to Reduce Commercial Sexual Exploitation, amends existing law to remove all references to prostitution. Instead, the new law criminalizes commercial sexual exploitation, which is a Class E crime carrying a maximum penalty of $1,000 and/or 180 days in jail. The new law goes on to define commercial sexual exploitation as “providing, agreeing to provide or offering to provide a pecuniary (monetary) benefit to another person to engage in a sexual act or sexual contact.” This language limits the criminalization to those who are buying the services—not those selling.

Further criminalized in the new law is commercial sexual exploitation of a minor and a person with a mental disability, which classifies these as Class C crimes carrying penalties of a fine of $5,000 and/or five years in prison.

The new law also mandates the Department of Public Safety consult with anti-trafficking and domestic violence organizations to develop an anti-sex-trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation protocol by March 1, 2024.

In 2021, Mills vetoed a similar bill that aimed to address Maine’s human trafficking problem over fears that the earlier version of the bill (LD 1592) would decriminalize prostitution wholly and “encourage the exploitation of young people.”

Currently, Nevada is the only state that allows limited legal prostitution in the US.