A Washington Post article today confirmed what Washington D.C. Solicitation of Prostitution lawyers already knew: that the D.C. police seemingly have unlimited resources to direct towards their war against illicit sex. Not satisfied with simply getting prostitutes off the streets, MPD has brought their fight behind closed doors, setting-up johns with fake sex ads, and arresting them in local hotel rooms.
Reportedly, sting operations in the Thomas Circle neighborhood alone have resulted in 50 arrests for solicitation of prostitution this winter. Other operations in other Northwest D.C. neighborhoods have had similar results. The Post quoted an MPD Commander who stated, “We could probably do this every weekend and get the same numbers.” And although they probably could, the question is whether they should.
As noted in the Post article, a prostitution arrest can have devastating consequences, even without a conviction. Many D.C., Maryland, and Northern Virginia citizens caught up in MPD’s sting operations had no prior criminal convictions, or contact with the criminal justice system. But one arrest may result in a lost job, lost spouse, and lost self-respect. And with the wrong judge, it may result in the temporary loss of freedom.
Police acknowledge that, as D.C. neighborhoods become more gentrified, roaming prostitutes have been replaced with restaurant-goers and window shoppers. The result is that the sex trade has moved behind closed doors, into local hotel rooms. But for MPD, gone does not mean forgotten, and out of sight is not out of mind. And that apparently means fighting an unending battle against consensual sex, wherever it may lead.
While technically the police may not be engaging in entrapment, some of those arrested are wondering why the D.C. police are luring otherwise law-abiding citizens to hotel rooms to face shame and humiliation. The debate about legalized prostitution is almost as old as the profession itself, and I won’t rehash it hear. But D.C. voters may start to wonder whether a law that makes criminals of a large percentage of the city is a law worth having. D.C. residents made their voices heard on legalization of marijuana, and perhaps they will speak on prostitution in the future.
In the present, however, those looking for love on internet sites like backpages and craigslist are just as likely to find arrest and jail. The penalty for solicitation of prostitution in Washington, D.C. is up to 90 days in jail, or a $500 fine or both. Add legal fees, and lost wages, and a sexual solicitation arrest is a pricey experience. While some prostitution defendants may be eligible for Deferred Prosecution Agreements, (case dismissal after completion of community service), others with prior criminal records may not be so lucky.
Because the consequences of a prostitution or sexual solicitation conviction can be serious, consulting a D.C. criminal defense lawyer is a good idea. Even if you’ve walked into a hotel room in response to a prostitution add, the government must still prove that you actively solicited sex. Whether they can do that depends on the specific facts of your case, and your D.C. solicitation lawyer will discuss with you your chances of winning at trial.
If you have been arrested for prostitution or sexual solicitation, contact JPMLegal for a free office consultation.