Commonwealth v. Dodge

The Facts

An undercover policeman attempted to set up and hire a prostitute, the Madam.  Over the phone the Madam told the undercover agent that it would cost him $25 per man for sexual services.  After payment the agent went into the room and was greeted by defendant, who was naked.  After more money was exchanged, defendant was arrested.

Procedural History

Defendant convicted at trial of prostitution and appeals.  At trial defendant argued that the law was unconstitutional the law’s language is vague and capable of “overbroad interpretation” in addition to violation of the 1st, 4th, and 5th amendments.  Finally, defendant argued that the law violates her right to privacy.

Relevant Law

Prostitution:  “A person is guilty of prostitution; a misdemeanor of the third degree, if he or she: (1) is an inmate of a house of prostitution or otherwise engages in sexual activity as a business; or (2) loiters in or within view of any public place for the purpose of being hired to engage in sexual activity.

The Issue

Whether criminal penalization of prostitution violates the right to privacy; whether the outlaw of prostitution has a valid state interest.

The Holding

No, conviction upheld.  “The Commonwealth is only required to show that the section bears some rational relationship to a valid state interest.”  Prostitution’s outlaw has a valid state interest because the professional is “an important source of venereal disease.”  It is “a corrupt influence on government and law enforcement machinery.”  The Commonwealth’s showing of these state interests creates the minimal validity required of the law.  The legislature should be the body to consider the counter arguments; but insofar as a valid state interest is concerned, it is proven that the law at least has an element of some rational relationship to a valid state interest.  The legislature may eventually conclude that such a policy goal can be achieved by legalizing prostitution; and as long as there would be a valid state interest in doing so, the court would find the law to be acceptable.

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