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solicitation and prostitution charges DC

Sexual solicitation and solicitation of prostitution are two misdemeanor crimes in the District of Columbia that typically involve an agreement between two people for sex or sex acts in exchange for money.  Both of these crimes carry a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and/or a $500.00 fine.  For repeat offenses, the maximum penalty goes up.  That is the absolute legal maximum someone can get for a first offense.  However, in DC Superior Court a usual sentence is probation.  These tend to be the kind of crimes where individuals need to be caught in the act for the police to make an arrest.  Accordingly, the DC Metropolitan Police Department periodically wastes tons of taxpayer money by launching elaborate prostitution-related stings that involve a combination of street and hotel “sting operations.”

To prosecute someone for solicitation, the government must show that an offer of sex for money, or money for sex is knowingly and voluntarily made. Most arrests in the District of Columbia involve undercover police officers posing as prostitutes or johns, and rely on the testimony of the undercover officer at trial.

In a typical hotel sting, an undercover MPD officer will put on online ad on a site known for escort and prostitution services—like Backpage or Craigslist and simply wait for the calls to come in.  An undercover officer posing as a prostitute will usually be in one hotel room while the arrest team will be in an adjoining room.  Once the undercover gives a single, the arrest team comes in and makes the arrest.

In what is quite unbelievable, the undercover officers virtually never record the conversation between the officer posing as a prostitute and the soon-to-be arrested client.  The reason this conduct is unbelievable is the actual criminal act that takes place in these situation is the conversation—the words explicitly agreeing to provide money for sex or sex acts.  Why MPD would not want to have the strongest evidence possible for these types of cases by recording the conversation that triggers the arrest is anybody’s guess?  As experienced criminal defense attorneys who have dealt with dozens of cases like this, we have some thoughts.

Another example of MPD undercover prostitution sting operations is the classic streetwalking situation.  An undercover MPD officer posing as a prostitute will flag down a vehicle—in many cases uber or taxi drivers — and attempts to offer sex for money.  Again, MPD undercover officers do not record these conversations despite the fact anyone with a smartphone can record a conversation.

These activities reflect a pattern among MPD of vigorous enforcement of prostitution and solicitation offenses.  This pattern of aggressive enforcement oftentimes conflicts with the prosecution and local government’s position on the issue.  For example, most prosecutors in DC will offer diversion for prostitution cases, which require the defendant to complete community service in exchange for dismissal of the charges.  This light prosecution often conflicts with the heavy hand MPD exercises in its enforcement efforts.  The DC City Council, on the other hand, has sent mixed messages in its prioritization of solicitation related offenses.  At one point, the City Council considered impounding vehicles of folks arrested for soliciting while in a car.  On the other hand, the City Council has more recently considered legalization or decriminalization of prostitution.

As it currently stands, prostitution remains illegal in the District of Columbia.  Many people who get arrested for this offense often want to use the defense of entrapment.  Unfortunately, entrapment is a notoriously difficult defense to prove.  Another common misconception is that if you ask an undercover police officer if they are a cop and they say no, it somehow creates an entrapment defense.  That is not at all true.  Courts have long recognized that police can lie, trick, and persuade while working in an undercover capacity.  Its actually more likely to get a successful result — depending on the facts — to assert a defense that the words being spoke were either not sincere or in jest.

There are also other more serious crimes involving solicitation and prostitution.  Pandering or as some might say “pimping” is a felony offense that is often prosecuted much more aggressively than mere solicitation.  Pandering involves causing, inducing, enticing, procuring or compelling an individual to engage in prostitution.  It carries a maximum penalty of five years in jail or twenty years if the individual enticed to prostitution is a minor.  Prosecutors often use pandering as a crime to go after human traffickers and other more serious individuals in the sex trafficking world.  The felony division of the United States Attorney’s office for the District of Columbia prosecutes these offenses.

An arrest for solicitation can be embarrassing, cause problems with work, and have negative consequences.  If you or someone you know has been arrested for solicitation or another prostitution related offense, its important that you speak to a qualified and experienced DC solicitation lawyer.  Attorney Jay P. Mykytiuk has handled dozens of solicitation related offenses and can help you navigate your way through the criminal justice system.  Contact us today for a confidential case evaluation.