What is Sexual Education and Responsibility Program?

Prostitution is prohibited in most U.S. jurisdictions due to concerns regarding public health, safety, and others. Data from the Philadelphia Police Department shows there were approximately 651 individuals arrested for soliciting a prostitute between August 2017 and July 2018.  Law enforcement in the Philadelphia area is currently stepping up enforcement efforts.

Prostitution and Related Offenses in Pennsylvania (§ 5902)

Prostitution offenses involve engaging in sexual activities as a business. The offender may be an “inmate” at a “house of prostitution” or other location. Inmates are those engaging in sexual activity in a venue that is intended for this purpose under the management or supervision of others. It also may be committed by loitering in public to be hired for these purposes.

First- and second-time offenders are charged with a third-degree misdemeanor. Third-time offenders are charged with a second-degree misdemeanor. Any subsequent offenses are elevated to a first-degree misdemeanor. If the offense is committed by an individual who has tested positive for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) it may be charged as a third-degree felony offense.

Patronizing a Prostitute

A patron may be an individual that intentionally arrives and remains in a house of prostitution to participate in sexual activity. The offense may be committed in any other venue by seeking to hire a prostitute to participate in sexual activity. The same grading applies to patronizing as it does for acting as a prostitute.

Grading of Offenses


Maximum Incarceration Period

Maximum Fine

Third-Degree Felony

7 years


First-Degree Misdemeanor

5 years


Second-Degree Misdemeanor

2 years


Third-Degree Misdemeanor

1 year


Sexual Education and Responsibility Program (SER)

The Philadelphia District Attorney's Office has worked in conjunction with the Joseph J. Peters Institute to create and develop the SER program. It is one of the many diversionary and alternative sentencing programs now implemented. Others include the Accelerated Misdemeanor Program, DUI Treatment Court, Intermediate Punishment Program, and more.

The District Attorney's Office is responsible for determining who is eligible and appropriate for entry. The SER is designed for non-violent offenders that were charged with patronizing a prostitute. Three potential dispositions may apply to those in the SER as follows:

  • First-time offenders that qualify based on AMP Tier 1 guidelines will not enter a plea to the charge. The legal proceedings are halted upon acceptance to SER. Those who complete the program are eligible to have their criminal charge withdrawn (dropped).
  • The next group of offenders is those with some other minor prior offenses that would not qualify for AMP Tier 1 based on the guidelines. These individuals may have their cases disposed under Section 17 or 18 provisions that may allow for expungement of the charges.
  • The final group consists of those with some prior offenses that would not qualify for AMP Tier 1. They are ineligible for immediate expungement of their charges and the cases are disposed of by Negotiated Stipulated Trial provisions.

Defendants must pay court costs and may complete community service hours instead of probation. Attendance at a one-day class at the Joseph J. Peters Institute is required and there is a $250 program fee that must be paid. The program is educational and focused on how prostitution is detrimental to families and the community.

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