Appeals Court (January 11, 2011)

General Law c. 272, § 4A penalizes a person for inducing a minor, who is not then engaged in prostitution, to engage in acts of prostitution.

The defendant transported a minor to a hotel to engage in sex for a fee. During an undercover "sting" by State and Malden police, the undercover detective paid the minor $280 and she began to undress. The detective created a diversion and asked the girl to return in an hour to have sex. The minor then entered the defendant's car and immediately handed her the $280. The police stopped the car and arrested the defendant.

The defendant was convicted of inducing a minor to become a prostitute (G.L. c. 272, § 4A), deriving support from the earnings of prostitute (G.L. c. 272, § 7) and contributing to the delinquency of a minor (G.L. c. 119, § 63). The defendant appealed all three convictions, but the decision focused on her argument against the inducement conviction. The defendant argued that, to be convicted of inducing a minor to become a prostitute, the Commonwealth is required to prove that the minor was not a prostitute at the time of the alleged offense. The evidence indicated that the minor was a homeless, drug-addicted teen who had been engaging in prostitution for "a while." The Commonwealth argued that, as a matter of public policy, the Legislature drafted the chapter 272 provisions to punish those who victimize minors. The Commonwealth also argued that G.L. c. 272, § 4A provides punishment for conduct that induces a child to engage in a single act of prostitution, regardless of whether the minor is engaged currently in prostitution.

G.L. c. 272, § 4A:

The relevant portion of G.L. c. 272, § 4A provides: "Whoever induces a minor to become a prostitute, or who knowingly aids and assists in such inducement, shall be punished…." The Court emphasized that the phrase "to become a prostitute" is plain and unambiguous. It found that the Legislature clearly intended to penalize a person for inducing a minor, who is not then so engaged, to engage in prostitution. Therefore, the trial judge erred in instructing the jury that the Commonwealth only had to prove that the defendant "did induce the minor to engage in an act of prostitution" and that it was "not necessary for the Commonwealth to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual had never before engaged in prostitution."

The Court reversed the conviction for a violation of G.L. c. 272, § 4A. The Court found that the evidence supported the remaining two convictions.