The Legal Implications of Erotic Massage in Indiana
In recent years, the intersection of personal autonomy, societal norms, and legal regulations has brought the issue of erotic massage in Indiana to the forefront of legal discourse. Today, the mere mention of “erotic massage” evokes countless opinions and controversies, often overshadowing the nuanced legal landscape that governs such practices within the state.
Keffer Hirschauer LLP is a leading Indiana criminal defense law firm dedicated to advocating for our clients’ rights and providing comprehensive legal guidance. Thus, we recognize the importance of shedding light on the intricate legal implications surrounding this topic; providing both individuals and businesses with a foundation of the legal boundaries and ambiguities of erotic massage in Indiana and the potential consequences for all involved.
Whether you need a criminal or professional license defense attorney in Indiana, the Indianapolis-based law firm of Keffer Hirschauer LLP has you covered. Our defense team is led by two former deputy prosecutors who understand how these types of cases are handled by the prosecution and which defense strategies are most effective, given the specific circumstances of the situation. Furthermore, our firm routinely handles cases before various boards and commissions that make up the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency, including the State Board of Massage Therapy and the Cosmetology and Barber Board.
Laws on Erotic Massage in Indiana
In general, erotic massage refers to a sensual and intimate type of massage that focuses on stimulating a person’s sexual pleasure and arousal. It involves the use of various massage techniques, often incorporating slow and deliberate movements, gentle touches, and varying pressures on different parts of the body to create a heightened sense of arousal and relaxation. The goal of an erotic massage is to enhance sexual stimulation, intimacy, and overall sensual pleasure for the recipient.
While an erotic massage does not necessarily have to involve a person’s entire body or explicit sexual conduct, it often does, and when this occurs, the activity has the potential to become illegal. Under the state’s current laws, an act of erotic massage in Indiana may be considered prostitution if it meets the definition set forth for the offense in Indiana Code 35-45-4-2. As contained in this section of Indiana, a person commits an act of prostitution in Indiana when they knowingly or intentionally (a) perform, offer, or agree to perform, sexual intercourse or other sexual conduct; or (b) knowingly or intentionally fondle, offer, or agree to fondle, the genitals of another person.
Furthermore, the person who engages the services another person offering or performing erotic massage in Indiana risks being charged with a separate, but related criminal offense called unlawful proposition. As defined in Indiana Code 35-45-4-3, unlawful proposition occurs when someone offers, agrees to, or actually pays or trades property to another person in exchange for engaging in sexual conduct.
First and second-time offenders arrested for prostitution or unlawful proposition will face Class A misdemeanor criminal charges. If convicted, they would face penalties as serious as up to one year in prison and fines of up to $5,000. Those with more than two prior, but unrelated offenses for prostitution or unlawful proposition, however, may be charged with a Level 6 felony. This is a much more serious criminal charge, and carries more serious criminal penalties. Per the Indiana sentencing guidelines, a Level 6 felony conviction could result in a criminal sentence of up to 2.5 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Promotion of Prostitution in Indiana
Law enforcement agencies routinely investigate and raid parlors and spas offering erotic massage in Indiana. When this occurs, the owners of the establishment may be charged with a variety of crimes, but namely, the promotion of prostitution. For example, in November of 2022, police raided a spa they believed to be offering erotic massage in Noblesville, and ultimately, arrested and charged the business owner with one count of prostitution and one count of promoting prostitution, among other criminal charges related to tax remittance and theft.
In comparison to criminal acts of prostitution and unlawful proposition, the promotion of prostitution is a much more serious crime. As defined in Indiana Code 35-45-4-4, a person commits promotion of prostitution when they entice or compel another person to become a prostitute; procure a prostitute for another person; or receive compensation or property from a prostitute via an act of prostitution. In addition, and as it relates to erotic massage, promotion of prostitution also occurs when person controls a place where the services of prostitutes may be utilized, or when they direct a person to dwelling for the purpose of prostitution.
In Indiana, the promotion of prostitution is considered to be a Level 5 felony, which carries a potential prison sentence of 1-6 years and fines of up to $10,000. However, when a person is arrested for the promotion of a prostitute who is under the age of 18, they may be charged with a Level 4 felony. If convicted, the offender will be required to register as a sex offender in Indiana and could face a sentence of up to 12 years in prison.
Erotic Massage and Professional Licensure
On top of the criminal consequences of being convicted for an illegal act of erotic massage in Indiana, some individuals may experience professional consequences, including the suspension or revocation of their business or professional license in Indiana. This is especially true for those holding an Indiana massage therapy license or those operating a spa that is regulated by the Indiana Cosmetology and Barber Board.
Indiana Professional Licensing Standards of Practice
The professional licensing standards of practice outlined in Indiana Code 25-1-11 regulate ALL professional licenses in Indiana, including massage therapy and beauty culture salon licenses. Under section five of this chapter, all licensed professionals in Indiana must comply with the standards of practice established by their specific Board or risk disciplinary action. On top of that, disciplinary action may be taken against the license holder if the board finds they have engaged in any of the prohibited practices listed below:
- Engaged in, or knowingly cooperated in, fraud or material deception in order to obtain a license to practice
- Engaged in fraud or material deception in the course of professional services or activities
- Advertised services or goods in a false or misleading manner
- Been convicted of a crime or assessed a civil penalty involving fraudulent billing practices
- Been convicted of a crime that has a direct bearing on the practitioner’s ability to continue to practice competently or is harmful to the public
- Has knowingly or intentionally violated a state statute or rule or federal statute or regulation regulating the profession for which the practitioner is licensed
- Has continued to practice although they have become unfit to practice
- Engaged in a course of lewd or immoral conduct in connection with the delivery of services to the public
- Allowed the practitioner’s name or license to be used in connection with a business who renders services beyond the scope of that individual’s or business’s training, experience, or competence
- Has had disciplinary action taken against the practitioner or the practitioner’s license to practice in any state or jurisdiction on grounds similar to those in this chapter
- Has assisted another person in committing an act that would constitute a ground for disciplinary sanction under this chapter
- Has allowed a license issued by a board to be used by another person or displayed to the public when the license has expired, is inactive, or has been revoked or suspended
Indiana Massage Therapy License Prohibitions
UnderIndiana Code 25-21.8-4 – Indiana Code 25-21.8-6, a person who has been convicted prostitution or the promotion of prostitution is not eligible to obtain an Indiana massage therapy license. In addition, a licensed massage therapist may not display or disseminate an advertisement, publicly or privately, for massage therapy that indicates or implies that massage therapy will be provided that includes sexual activity. On top of that, Indiana Code 25-21.8-7-3 requires anyone who holds an active Indiana massage therapy license that is convicted of a crime to notify the State Board of Massage therapy within 30 days of the conviction. In other words, if a massage therapist has been convicted of a crime, such as prostitution, their license will likely be at risk.
On top of those regulations, anyone who holds a massage therapy license in Indiana must abide by the standards of practice set forth for the profession in 847 IAC 1-2, or risk having sanctions levied upon their license. Under these standards, a person holding an Indiana massage therapy license shall not:
- Engage in sexual activity with a client (or permit any other person to engage in sexual activity with a client) during a session; at an establishment where massage therapy is being conducted; or at any on-site location where massage therapy is being conducted
- Initiate, agree to, or ask the client to engage in sexual activity or behave verbally or nonverbally in a manner intended to solicit sexual activity with a client; or
- Expose, touch, or massage the genitalia of a client.
Beauty Culture Salon License Prohibitions
As stated in Indiana Code 25-8-2(a)(2), the act of “applying oils, creams, antiseptics, clays, lotions, or other preparations to the head, face, neck, shoulders, torse, arms, hands, legs, or feet of a person to massage, cleanse, stimulate, manipulate, exercise, or beautify,” is considered to be a performance of cosmetology, a licensed profession in Indiana. Given this, licensed cosmetologists may also find their license at risk, if accused of providing erotic massage in Indiana or following an arrest related to prostitution, which is listed as a conviction of concern for the profession. Furthermore, if an employee of a “beauty culture salon,” licensed under Indiana Code 25-8-7, is found to have violated the professional licensing standards of practice, or participated in illegal activity at the salon, the establishment’s license could be sanctioned by the Board, under Indiana Code 4-21.5.
Possible Sanctions Against an Indiana Professional License
When a licensed professional is found to be in violation of the rules and regulations discussed thus far, the Board governing their license has the ability to levy a handful of sanctions against their license in Indiana. For less serious violations, sanctions may include censure, issuance of a letter of reprimand, or the assessment of a civil penalty for no more than $1,000 for each violation. More serious violations, however, could result in the license holder being placed on probation. When this occurs, the license holder may be required to report regularly to the board; limit their practice; continue or renew continuing education; perform or refrain from performing any acts (like community restitution or service without compensation) the board deems appropriate; or satisfactorily complete a quality or peer review.
Under the most serious circumstances, the State Board may elect to suspend or permanently revoke a massage therapy or beauty culture salon license in Indiana. When this occurs, the practitioner does have the ability to appeal the decision, but doing so is often very challenging and requires the assistance of an experienced Indiana massage license defense attorney.
Facing Allegations of Erotic Massage in Indiana?
If you’re facing criminal charges stemming from erotic massage in Carmel, Indianapolis, or anywhere in the state of Indiana, the criminal defense attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP can help protect you, your career, and your reputation. The former deputy prosecutors at our firm know both sides of the criminal justice system and understand the local courts in Indianapolis and the surrounding counties. On top of that, they have deep experience in negotiation, as well as inside the courtroom, and will aggressively pursue the best possible outcome in the case against you – whether that is dismissal, reduction of charges, or a not-guilty verdict.
Furthermore, if certain allegations threaten your massage therapy or beauty culture salon license in Indiana, the professional license defense attorneys can provide experienced advice and representation while defending you from any complaints made against your license. Our attorneys will keep you informed and involved throughout the case, while crafting and executing a sound defense strategy aimed at protecting your license, reputation, and career.
Given all that’s at stake, there’s no time to wait. To begin working to protect your future, speak with an attorney today by calling 317-857-0160 or completing our online contact form to schedule your free case consultation.