For some people charged with solicitation for prostitution, they may feel that the crime really doesn't hurt anyone, and is a consensual agreement between two adults. However, everywhere in the country, except for parts of Nevada, still considers prostitution to be a crime, and law enforcement efforts often target the customers themselves.
At Dhar Law, LLP, our lawyers provide legal defense for those accused of solicitation for prostitution in Boston & throughout Massachusetts. Contact our law firm today at 617-391-0592.
Solicitation of a Prostitute
Under Massachusetts law, it is against the law to solicit for a prostitute. "Solicitation" generally means requesting or agreeing to have someone perform a sexual act in exchange for money. The law criminalizes the solicitation itself, which means that there does not have to be any sexual action completed to be charged, the agreement or offer is enough to support an arrest for solicitation.
The penalties for most solicitation convictions is imprisonment for up to two and a half (2 ½), and fines of between $1,000 and $5,000. However, if the solicitation charge involves a minor, the penalties are much more severe, and may result in required registration as a sex offender.
Other Impacts of Solicitation Conviction
In addition to any criminal penalties associated with a solicitation charge, people may face public humiliation as a result. Police departments may issue press releases featuring those arrested, as a shameful deterrent to other would-be solicitors. It is common for news outlets to post images of people arrested for soliciting prostitutes during police prostitution sweeps. Additionally, most people's criminal record and mug shot are available to the public, for anyone to discover.
A conviction for solicitation may also threaten some people's jobs if employers find out about the crime. A spouse discovering their partner has just gotten arrested for solicitation for prostitution is another obvious potential hazard. Solicitation may also harm a person's public reputation.
Police Prostitution Stings
Many interactions between someone soliciting sex from an actual prostitute do not result in an arrest. Arrests for solicitation usually involve the police operating undercover as either the customer, the pimp, or the prostitute. These may involve sting operations, or prostitution sweeps, intended to catch a number of people during a single operation.
Due to the rise in the use of the internet to facilitate prostitution, police may use websites such as Craigslist or BackPage to advertise sex for a fee. These reverse sting operations involve posting a suggestive ad, and waiting for people to contact them. The police will then arrange meeting times with the unsuspecting customers, and wait for them to arrive, placing them under arrest when it is revealed the the supposed prostitute was really an undercover police officer.
Many people think that if they are arrested by an undercover police officer for soliciting a prostitute, they are a victim of entrapment. While this is a possible defense, in most cases entrapment is not viable because of the requirements to show entrapment. Entrapment involves showing that the person charged was induced to agree to sex for a fee when they would not have otherwise engaged in solicitation but for the inducement.
An undercover officer pretending to be a prostitute may be tricking a potential customer into thinking they are someone they are not, but this is not the same as tricking someone into solicitation when they wouldn't otherwise have agreed sexual contact for a fee. The police are merely creating an opportunity for someone to commit a crime. As a result, entrapment can be difficult to prove in most solicitation cases.
Prostitution and Pimping
Prostitutes and third parties can also be charged under the law. The third party can be a "pimp" or a "madame" or anyone else involved in the solicitation agreement. Pimping charges may also involve the much more serious crime of trafficking people for sex.
Defenses to Solicitation Charges
There are possible defenses to solicitation for prostitution charges, which will depend on the facts of the individual case. The prosecution has the burden of proof, and is required to prove all elements of the crime in order to gain a conviction. By calling into doubt, or presenting evidence which questions the prosecutions claims, a criminal defense lawyer may have the charges reduced or dismissed.
As noted above, entrapment is a rare, but available affirmative defense to the crime of solicitation for prostitution. This would require a showing that the defendant was otherwise a law-abiding citizen and would not have solicited for sex but for the inducement of the undercover officer. Another possible defense could be disputing that the sexual agreement was for a fee, and instead was to be a consensual act not involving any exchange of money.